Manchester Museum

I rode my bike for the first time in over a year and I didn’t fall off. Total distance covered: less than one mile, but it’s a start. Later in the week, longer rides were precluded by the monsoon season. A month’s worth of rain in less than a day. Thank goodness we’re on the top floor in our luxury block.

Martha and William are the highlights of the week of course. We might have a small moan when we drag ourselves out of bed early on a Sunday morning, but watching them both in the swimming pool, enjoying it and learning, is very gratifying.

Liam and William in the pool

We all, six of us, had brunch at The Laundrette in Chorlton. That’s a restaurant, not the place where you wash clothes, that wouldn’t be very nice, dropping crumbs on other people’s washing. Liesel and I again realised, we’d never drive as far just to eat out when we lived in Chessington.

Liam’s Dad, Alan, very kindly planed the bottom of the door leading from the hall into our living room. Just one of the unintended side-effects of having a new, thicker carpet installed last week. As part of the decluttering project in Chessington, I’d passed on my plane knowing that I wouldn’t be doing any more serious woodwork. But if I still had it, I’d be planing the door, several days later, very tentatively shaving a half a millimetre off at a time. Thank goodness for experts.

One sunny day, I took advantage and went for a long walk.

River Mersey

I saw and followed the sign towards St Hilda’s church. Somehow I missed it from which I can only deduce that Hilda is the patron saint of invisible churches. Or maybe I just wasn’t concentrating.

My route followed the river for a long way and I was beginning to think how relaxing it might be, out in a boat. Until, that is, I came across some very half-hearted rapids.

Rapids

I kept a list of all the wildlife I encountered, ducks, rats, otters, beavers, deer, moorhens, coots, foxes, bears… and the grand total was a big fat zero. A few insectsbuzzed about, busy doing what they do and that’s it: slightly disappointing.

Fallen tree

After so much rain recently, it looks as though this tree could no longer hang on by its root tips. It slid down the slope to a sad end in the river.

People who know me probably also know that the twelve-year old hiding within this old body often writes a certain three-letter word in the sand on beaches. Well, I am not alone, as this tag on a pillar supporting the M60, Manchester Outer Ring Road shows.

Bumbag

Grandchildren Day saw Oma playing with Playdough, Play-d’oh!, however it’s spelt, but she did let Martha join in a bit too.

Martha and Liesel and Play-Doh

After a nap (William and me), we took a bus into Manchester where we met Jenny for lunch. This was a bit of an experiment, really, to see how the children would cope with seeing their Mum halfway through a working day. Martha wanted to go back to work with Jenny, but other than that, we had a good time. Well, nobody was too traiumatised.

Liesel and I took the children to Manchester Museum, just down the road. Martha wanted to see the dinosaurs while William was more interested in the froggies. Taking pictures through glass in a darkened vivarium trying to avoid reflections of the few spotlights was a challenge. And we weren’t allowed to remove the frogs for photographic purposes either.

Green frogs
Cephalopod

It’s fascinating to see what interests them both and I’m not sure Martha believed me when I told her she had bones inside her just like those on display, just much, much smaller.

Both grandchildren fell asleep on the way back to Jenny’s and after watching the first half of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, we went to play in the garden.

Martha is flying

It was her Dad who threw Martha into the sky, not me, I’m not sure I could do that with someone else’s child.

And now, after a long, long break in the proceedings, it was time to finish off the VHS video digitisation project. I’d copied most of the videos onto the PC some years ago but had to make use of a professional service to copy some of the more fragile ones.

Windows XP

Booting up in Windows XP was a delight. Bish, bash, bosh, here’s the screen, you can do something straightaway. Not like Windows 7 or 10 where the disk thrashes about doing who knows what for a long, long time. Ooh, a bit of a rant crept in, there.

The quality of the footage is still very disappointing of course: I was reminded why I’d shelved the project for so long. Playing a newly created DVD on a proper DVD player revealed even more defects. But if I can get some stills from the videos, that will still be of value.

Another morning in Didsbury culminated in a very late breakfast at Greens. We took on enough energy to be able to install more shelves in the flat. We unpacked several boxes of CDs. A ridiculous number of CDs. I reckon if you have CDs that you can’t remember playing at all, or even buying, you’ve almost certainly got too many!

After a month’s rainfall yesterday, we had a gorgeous sunny day today. If it turns out to have been a month’s worth of sunshine as well, well, I think we’ll all be extremely miffed and very disappointed.

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.

To Mission Beach

Mossman Gorge is just north of Port Douglas and was the venue for our first hike of the day. There’s an Aboriginal Village between the visitor’s centre and the gorge itself, and we were requested not to walk through. So, along with just about everyone else, we took the shuttle bus service, and enjoyed a much shorter walk.

Small stream

In the rainforest, you’re always on the lookout for something different: unusual trees and other plants, maybe even animals. Sometimes it just looks and feels prehistoric, but it’s always gorgeous. We’re grateful for the boardwalks they’ve installed, it’s easier for us townies, but it means that you are still in touch with modern life, with civilisation and to a certain extent, that’s what we’re trying to get away from.

Mossman rapids

Just one bloke ignored all the warnings and jumped in the water to ruin everyone else’s photos.

Liesel was delighted to walk across the relatively new Rex Creek Bridge. It was a bit wobbly but we all survived.

The challenging Rex Creek Bridge

Normally, there’s nothing special about moss, but this large patch was almost glowing.

Moss, man

Back at Port Douglas, we walked up to the Lookout and along some of Four Mile Beach.

Four Mile Beach from the Lookout

We both commented on how pleasant the temperature was, after being in the heat for so long. One day, we’ll be complaining it’s too cold, I know, but right now, it’s just right.

It’s a nice beach, flat, with perfect sand, but there are three main hazards to look out for. Box jellyfish might come along and sting you. Crocodiles might come along and eat you. Humans might slip off the rocks and fall onto you.

Another warning sign

A small section of the sea was safe to swim in as there was a net keeping the box jellyfish out. Both Liesel and I fought the temptation to leap in.

The safe swimming area

We brushed the sand off our feet and set off for Cairns. The winding road by the coast was great but it was nice when it straightened out for a while.

Liesel pointed and said that that was one job she wouldn’t want to do, and I can see that it might become a wee bit exhausting and even boring and repetitive. Putting plastic bags over the new bunches of bananas before they grow too big, presumably as a pest deterrent. I assume they’re not conventional plastic bags, but allow air and moisture to flow through. Hundreds, if not thousands of trees in fields, different coloured bags making it all look quite artistic. I wonder if we’ll see more sometime, and get a picture?

In Cairns, we looked at the menu outside Yaya’s Hellenic Kitchen and Bar and there were plenty of nice-looking vegetarian dishes to choose from. We went in and the sign at the door said “Please wait to be seated. Grazie.” Hang on, I thought, that’s Italian, not Greek. Greek would be Ευχαριστώ. As we realised we’d entered the wrong place, we were being shown to a table. We had Italian food instead, the waitress was very friendly but we didn’t ask whether her accent was American, Irish or something else: it was certainly flexible.

While eating, we heard one solitary rumble of thunder, and as it was cloudy, we thought a storm was on its way. We had felt a few spots of rain at Mossman Gorge. But no. We later wondered whether it was thunder after all, maybe it was a jet.

After lunch, we walked along the Esplanade and enjoyed watching birds out on the mudflats. The pelicans were a lovely surprise.

Australian Pelicans

They’re so elegant when they glide just a few inches above the water with barely a twitch of the wings.

Curlew rooting away
Curlew with food plus photobomb

We passed by the war memorial, always sad to see, but the big gun has been out of commission since the 1960s, so the birds are safe.

25 Pounder artillery gun/Howitzer

This chap was standing still for ages, to the point where I wondered if it was real.

Very stationary egret

He had his eyes on something, I was poised with the camera, he didn’t move, I didn’t dare blink, I stretched to relieve a crick in my back and boom, he moved, I missed the moment, but he walked away with a juicy morsel and I’m sure he winked at me as if to say “gotcha”.

Caught something tasty
Yellow-fronted beachcomber

A couple of exercise areas caught our attention, briefly, but we decided to leave the equipment for other people to enjoy. Not that there was a long queue or anything.

Promenade gym

The children’s play area by contrast was fully occupied and we thought these serving suggestions were pretty good.

Playground

Back in the car, as we progressed in a southerly direction, we were treated to two signs indicating “The highest mountain in Queensland”. Well, we thought, they can’t both be right. The two contenders are neighbours. Mt Bartle Frere is 1611 or 1622 m depending on which source you believe while Mt Bellenden Ker is a mere 1593 m above sea level. In any case, these mountains had their heads in the clouds as we drove by.

One of the highest mountains in Queensland

It’s election time in Australia and the radio adverts are the same old same old, but this large mural is hard-hitting in a fun way.

Vote for … somebody

We made a quick detour to Etty Bay, E Bay for short, because it’s famous for the local family, group, herd, whatever, of cassowaries.

Etty Bay

The beach was packed: just one young lady reading or meditating or something. I walked to the far end to use the facilities and when I told Liesel there actually was a toilet and I didn’t need to use the bush, she decided to go too. I said I’d walk back up the hill looking out for cassowaries, and she could pick me up when I thumbed a lift. Hah. The only cassowaries I saw were on road signs. I did find some very tasty-looking red berries though.

Juicy red berries

No, I didn’t eat any, no idea what they are.

Liesel drove up the hill, big grin arriving well before she did. Did you see a cassowary, she asked? No, I replied. I did, she boasted, by the campsite.

Liesel’s cassowary

I was tempted to say, oh please, please, please, take me back, but it was getting dark. The Sun sets behind the mountains and, being still in the tropics, there’s no real twilight period.

Sunset over the mountains

In Mission Beach, we have a room in the house shared with the host, Judy. She is a very friendly, chatty kiwi. She told us there would be no naked people in the pool, so that put the kibosh on my plans. She didn’t need to see one of her guests bending over outside without any clothes on, again. The pool was lovely, though, I just floated around for about 15 minutes, looking up at the lack of stars. It had been overcast for most of the day.

Mick in the pool

You can do a sky dive here at Mission Beach, landing on the actual beach. I wonder? I will if Liesel does…

Return to Darwin

Our second visit to Florence Falls was much more worthwhile. Everyone else is back at work and we took advantage. We even found a parking spot under the shade of a tree and that’s very unusual.

We had a bit of a moan about the lack of wildlife spotted recently, so it was delightful to see some on the early morning drive. Two wallabies crossed the road in front of us but even better, we passed a kite flying at a very low level next to the road, with his breakfast in his claws. Very exciting!

Florence Falls

We walked to the viewing platform and then down the 135 steps to the plunge pool. 135? I made it 168 and even then, I think I missed some when we greeted passers-by.

Where’s Liesel?
Where’s the golden orb spider?

The pool itself was inviting but I was keeping my powder, and my body, dry for later on.

The plunge pool

Before we’d left, a group of young people came down, started swimming, a-whoopin’ and a-hollerin’, enjoying the echoes.

One of many early morning lizards

Similarly, Buley Rockhole was relatively deserted. We were surprised but very pleased that there was so little litter in either place. There are no bins, you’re supposed to take all your rubbish away, and it seems that the vast majority did so. Either that, or the rangers had done a good job very early.

Buley Rockhole without the crowds

We considered holding a spontaneous jumble sale when we came across several items of forgotten clothing.

Any offers considered

One Dad was having fun with his little girl, encouraging her to jump in from the rock. But, at the last moment, he couldn’t bear to look.

Go on, jump, you know you want to…

Yes, I was tempted to join in here but we had other plans.

Along the road we stopped by Tolmer Falls Lookout. This was a half-hour walk, along a boardwalk well above the trees. Another spectacular view reminding us again just how immense and impressive this country is.

It’s a big, big country alright

The waterfall itself looked relatively small and insignificant in the distance: I felt sorry for it.

Tolmer Falls
Tolmer Falls

As we walked back along the walkway, we saw a couple of ladies looking at photos on their phones. So we just ploughed on right up to them. Thereby scaring away the goanna they’d actually been photographing. We apologised of course before taking our own pictures.

Goanna

What a great day for animals, in the end.

I still needed to pay a couple of bills, so we returned to Wangi Falls to use their wifi. All that and one of the credit card bills was for just 79p.

We had coffee and a sandwich and then, at last, I ripped my clothes off and jumped into the water, shouting and yee-haaing. Well, I went in quietly, one slow step at a time. It was cool and refreshing. Liesel walked to the lookout deck and saw this.

Where’s Mick?

I swam over to her and I couldn’t believe the size of the golden orb spider underneath where she was standing. For the first time ever, I realised how useful a selfie stick might be: you could safely take the spider’s picture from up above.

We encountered one other unexpected sight today. We’ve seen smoke from the road a few times, but today we saw big plumes of smoke and big flames. Yes, a couple of big fires. We wondered where the supervisors were, being sure it was a controlled blaze.

Other than that, the drive back to Batchelor and then along the highway back to Darwin was uneventful.

We’re in a motel for the night. We chose the slighty more expensive cabin at the back, away from the noise of the traffic on the main road. What they didn’t tell us was that we’re under the training flight path of the local RAAF base. We can hear them, oh yes, those jets are loud, but we can also feel them through the floor.

RAAF planes in close formation

Sadly, this is our final night in the Northern Territory and I’m already feeling a bit homesick for the place. I really hope we come back sometime.

Litchfield National Park

After breakfast, I returned to the shop to buy some tissues. It was already quite warm but good to see a blue rather than a cloudy sky.

Here is a picture of the castle in Batchelor Yes, in Batchelor, near Litchfield National Park, in the Northern Territory of Australia, a castle.

Batchelor Castle

The original Karlstein Castle was built from 1348-55 in Bohemia (23 km south-east of Prague in the now Czech Republic) by Charles IV, King of Bohemia, Emperor of Germany and of the Holy Roman Empire. At various times, this castle held treasures and relics from the Holy Roman Empire, the Bohemian crown jewels and the Czech crown jewels.

The Batchelor replica miniature was erected by Bernard Havlik, resident of Batchelor, purely from photographs, from 1974-78. It is located in what is now known as Havlik Park.

Our young and good looking friends from the museum said yesterday that a visitor once turned up from the then Czechoslovakia. He lived close to the real Karlstein Castle and he commented that this model was spot on.

Another side of the replica castle

What a difference a day makes, 24 little hours. Blue skies. We drove to Litchfield National Park and stopped to look at the Magnetic Termite Mounds. Liesel was disappointed that these constructions weren’t covered in fridge magnets.

The mounds are built by magnetic termites. And no, you can’t attract hundreds of those by waving a horseshoe magnet about either.

These mounds are oriented north-south to reduce the amount of direct sunlight shining on the surface, thus reducing the internal temperature.

Magnetic termite mounds
Narrower than usual

Other mounds are also in the area. The Cathedral Mound is built by a colony of Cathedral termites. What a coincidence!

Colossal Cathedral Mound with little Liesel

It’s an 18-feet tall monolith and it reminded me of an early scene from one of my alltime favourite films, which is now 51 years old.

2001 – A Space Odyssey

It was a very pleasant walk and after a very pleasant drive, we found ourselves at the very pleasant Wangi Falls.

One of the selling points here is the free wifi. We had things to do online. Like tell our host that the oven doesn’t work. Like check that yesterday’s blog had posted on schedule (it hadn’t). Like sync the Fitbit. Like check the bank acc… Oh no. I got kicked off with the message Data Limit Exceeded. I tried with other email addresses but it knew, it knew… Later on, Liesel was kicked off too, Time Limit Exceeded. So, sorry, banks in the UK, I’ll pay the bills very soon, honest.

I had coffee and we had a sandwich, a bowl of salt with some chips in and a slice of cheesecake. That weighed me down quite nicely when I entered the water.

Watching the Chinese group try to order food and drinks was informative yet embarrassing. One lady ordered her meal then walked away. Her friend told her (in Chinese) that she had to pay. Then number two got to the front of the queue before starting to decide what she wanted. The girl behind the counter looked at me with eyes that said “I’m an underpaid café worker, get me out of here.” All I could do to help out was to place my order, clearly and distinctly, and pay without being prompted.

Wangi Falls

It was so refreshing in the water, even with lots of people, noodles and fish. This pool only reopened to the public this week: it’s taken three weeks to be absolutely sure there are no crocodiles in the vicinity after the Wet.

Where’s Mick?

I’m not a very good swimmer and the waterfall was just too far for me to reach. It’s fresh water too, so I was less buoyant than in the sea.

We started on the circular, mile-long Wangi Falls Walk not initially intending to go the whole way, as we’d left all our water in the car.

Wangi Falls
The Golden Orb Sign

The sign told us to look out for a Golden Orb Spider. Well, we found one quite easily, because it was being photographed by a few other people. It’s huge! There were some small, golden normal sized spiders on the web too, but the large one was magnificent. This is one of those rare times when I wish I had a real camera with manual focus. The spider is out of focus in all of my pictures: very disappointing.

Least worst photo of the Golden Orb spider

We continued along the path and up the steps and along the path and round the corner and up the steps to the Treetop view. The higher you climb, the further you see over the Park.

Looking over LItchfield National Park

In the distance here, you can see some smoke, presumably from a controlled fire, known as “fuel reduction” according to some signs we saw today.

At the highpoint, we crossed a bridge over the stream of water that would later plunge hundreds of feet into the swimming hole.

Selfie of the day

You’re supposed to keep to the path to preserve the vegetation and the wildlife but these naughty people climbed through the fence and went walkabout. Liesel asked why I took the picture. Evidence, I said. This is what they looked like before being washed over a waterfall and/or before being eaten by a dingo and/or a crocodile.

Naughty people

It was certainly easier, and quicker, climbing down the steps, but it still required concentration. A little hydration would have helped, of course.

Rocky steps

So, not surprising then that when we next encountered flowing water, we didn’t drink any but we both spontaneously splashed ourselves with it, to cool off. And back down at the bottom, I didn’t need to be asked twice whether I wanted another quick dip. I have no idea how much water we downed when we returned to the car.

On the way home, I sat on a towel so as not to get the car seat too wet.

Lost City

The sign pointed to Lost City. Sadly, the track was 4WD only so we don’t know whether or not we would have found it.

As we approached Batchelor, we saw a car had landed, crooked, on the gravel strip next to the road. Behind it, we saw three unoccupied police vehicles, each from a different police department as far as we could see. We turned the corner only to see a fourth police car approaching. Very exciting, very intriguing. I suspect the driver of the vehicle had run off into the bush and was being chased by Batchelor’s best: a real life 39 Steps. We can’t believe such force would be necessary just because someone parked a bit funny.

The oven still didn’t work, so we fired up the barbecue. Cous-cous with roasted, well, barbecued, vegetables and halloumi. Liesel is a fantastic cook!

We do like to see a bit of colour. But sometimes, a total lack of colour can be just as exciting. The ebony night sky with its myriad stars mesmerised me in the middle of the night. There are trees here that blot out some of the sky, but even so, and even with the annoying motion-sensing lights, the sky was as beautifully bejewelled as I’ve ever seen it. Just too many stars to make out the most obvious of constellations. Marvellous!

When I returned to bed, I tried not to think about number of bites I’d received without realising. It was so quiet outside, no birds, no insects, just the neighbour’s TV gently burbling away. I certainly didn’t hear the warning whine of mosquitoes.

Come breakfast time, the itches had subsided and only a couple of residual bumps showed.

Buley Rockhole is a series of small, round rock pools connected by cascades. It’s closer to Batchelor than Wangi Falls but mostly, we followed the same road. It felt even hotter today than yesterday, although the car’s thermometer suggested otherwise.

Buley Rockhole Cascade

What we hadn’t realised was that today was a public holiday. Everybody was there. Darwin must have been a ghost town.

We had a quick walk but we couldn’t find any shade and even the pools all had too many people in them. Maybe we just don’t like crowds any more!

People having fun and boozing

The young larrikins drinking cans of beers put us off too: just too much jostling and joshing with young families nearby.

The car park at Florence Falls was full, in fact, cars were parked in stupid places a long way back, along the road.

We shall return!

So we went back to Batchelor Museum where the history of the township revolves around the early settlement, farming, World War 2 and the nearby Rum Jungle uranium mine.

One of the first names I noticed was Joe McGinness. Possibly my cousin Joe. His father and my maternal grandfather share a surname and both came from Ireland. I wonder? Something to follow up when we get home.

Joe McGinness

The early settlers tried hard. They grew so many different crops to find out what worked and what didn’t. One of the selling points of the Northern Territory was that it didn’t have many of the expected tropical diseases, not even malaria.

There are stories from some of the airmen based in the area during the war, including Dr Fenton, who we read about in Katherine.

The uranium mine is just along the road and now we know what to look out for should be ever need some uranium ore.

Tobernite

Of course, we’re law-abiding citizens, so we turned our rental vehicle back just as soon as we’d taken this photo.

Restricted area

The local group of lorikeets is either invisible or very well camouflaged. We can hear them, we know which trees they’re in, but we can’t see them. Spooky.

Return to Singapore

Our lovely hostess drove us to the airport after breakfast which we ate outdoors, trying to ignore the smell and the haze caused by at least one bonfire.

Eggs, bread and more curry puffs
A wave of haze

Sadly, I think the ubiquitous rubbish-burning fires of Malaysia will be amongst our longest-lasting memories.

Two flights and a taxi ride later, we arrived at our next Singaporean apartment, in the heart of the city. As we passed by some now familiar landmarks, there was a sense of ‘coming home’. Even though this has never been home. Maybe it’s just more ‘comfortable’ than Malaysia. A strange sensation, nonetheless. No Morality Police here.

Street art just along the road

I went for a walk but what I didn’t tell Liesel was where I was really going, in case my plan went wrong.

Our place looks better from the outside
Welcome back, Mick, said Buddha

On my return, Liesel did ask “Who are you? And what have you done with my husband?” Yes, I’d been to a barbershop, had a trim and a shave. I’d retained the face fungus for a few days longer than usual to help combat sunburn to the south of the face while on the island.

It was a delight being able to cross the roads safely. Yes, I’ll have a whinge about the pedestrain crossing lights taking too long to change and then not giving people enough time to cross the road. But at least, there are pedestrian crossings here.

Balloon dog taking a dump (sculpture), Cathay Hotel

For the first time in over a week, we were able to wash our clothes. The shirts could stand up on their own after several days wear and tear, but we managed to origami them into the washing machine.

It’s funny how history repeats itself. Last time we arrived in Singapore, one of our first ports of call was the Apple Store, where Jyoti purchased a brand new iPhone. We had to go there this time too: Liesel’s USB-Lightning cable is no longer working reliably and there’s a definite kink in it. The new cable works very well.

We spent much of the day walking around shops, streets, malls, keeping to the shade where possible, making use of shops’ airconditioning especially where it spills out onto the streets. Liesel’s research led us to a place called Wild Honey where we ate well and appreciated the Troggs’ philosophy printed on the napkins.

Wild Thing
Aubergine bacon and scrambled eggs

Yes, it looks like bacon and they even call it ‘bacon’, but it’s very thin slices of aubergine and is, to me, much nicer than actual pig’s bum!

The AC is great but it does mean that every time we go back outside, our glasses mist up. Interestingly, we’ve not seen anyone else suffering this fate, so maybe there’s a local anti-misting coating you can buy for spectacles.

We still enjoy looking at the architecture here, a nice mix of old and new. Many buildings have these French doors on the first floor, some white, like these, and some very colourful ones.

Information
Professional photobombers: invisible until you look at the picture later on
A front door just like ours at home
Singaporeans are no good at Curling because they’ve got no handles on their stones
Had to buy this snack, obvs

As I slowly dragged myself up from the depths and weirdness of cheese-induced dreams, I thought the airconditioner in the bedroom was too loud and about to explode. But no, the noise was from outside: torrential rain. We had planned to go out for lunch, not least because this place gets cleaned twice a week and today was one of those days. The cleaner knocked on the door and we asked her to wait for another ten minutes, while we made ourselves presentable.

Glorious peacock (sculpture)

We walked to Fifth Dimension, an Indian-Chinese fusion restaurant, back in Little India, where we’d been with Jyoti a few weeks ago.

On the way there, we saw a peacock (above) and a cow riding a bicycle. Hah, that grabbed your attention, didn’t it!

Cow riding a bicycle

The meal was great, all three members of staff were very friendly, tending to all our needs, mainly because we were the only customers.

Very nice, very tasty

We wandered slowly back by many Indian shops, food, clothes, all looking very neat and tidy – unlike the alleyways that run behind the shops, definitely not for the squeamish. There were a couple of cows sitting up on the roof of the Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple.

Cows sitting on the roof
More street art
Tiger, tiger

On our way to the National Library, we were pleased to read that Banana is now back home, but poor old Milky is still missing. I think more people should provide updates on their ‘missing pets’ notices.

Banana is back home

It would be nice to give this happy Buddha a new home, but we’d never fit him and his earlobes into our bags.

Laughing Buddha
Free bicycle parking for very tall people

Again, we stayed in the shade as much as possible, and this sort of decoration makes it doubly worthwhile.

Art in the street
Let’s all learn to dance in the rain

In the Design Centre, Liesel declined my challenge of a game of ping-pong on the hexagonal table, so I think that means I win by default.

Hexagonal table tennis table
Very pleased to see Blur have a new record out
Freedom for Pooping!

In the Library, we found a couple of books to read out loud for our grandchildren, but it was much harder to find a quiet spot in which to do so.

Children’s play area in the National Library

The children were having a wonderfully noisy time in their play area while over in a separate room, it was Tamil story time with singing and dancing!

There’s an exhibition of photographs depicting Old Singapore. In one picture, there’s a cow pulling an ice cream wagon.

Some old bloke on an old photo
Always been a busy, hustling and bustling place

One thing I think we missed in Malaysia because it was just so hard to wander around was seeing strange and unusual works of art. There’s all sorts of strange things here in Singapore, though. Big balloon dogs. Stainless steel birds in the Carlton Hotel, a home from home. A big, 5-metre tall naked red man. A cyclist made from PVC pipes (not straws) giving the appearance of motion. More birds.

Birds on a Tree, 2011, Lucida October Contemporary Art
Red Memory – Smile, by Chen Wen Ling
If this smile doesn’t lift your spirits…
Disguise 3, by Kang Duk Bong
A flock of birds

After visiting yet another shopping mall (there’s a lot to choose from), we walked back via Fort Canning Park. That was a shock to the system.

Singapore is flat, mainly. But in the park, on a hill, we walked up scores of steps. We were hoping to see the sea, but there are just too many trees and tall buildings in the way. At the top of the hill, there is not only a fort but also a lighthouse. I wondered if it can still be seen from mariners out at sea? No, it can’t. It was closed in 1958 and a much brighter light placed on top of the tall Fullerton Building, now a hotel.

Heritage tree
Fort Canning Lighthouse

After walking around and through the park, we set off home. There’s a long, long stairway to climb, but that’s OK, we’re in no hurry. What we didn’t realise until we got there, though, was that these steps belonged to an exclusive and very posh community of ex-pats. We followed some in-mates in when they opened the gate to the compound and proceeded to follow the steps, in a generally upwards direction.

A couple of the paths were dead-ends, just leading to individual houses or apartments. The people playing in the pools took no notice of us as we nonchalantly ambled by, so presumably the panic we felt, at the possibility of not being able to find a way out, didn’t show.

We went inside one of the buildings, and the sign by the lift indicated a car park a few floors below. I suspect we wouldn’t have been able to operate the lift without a special keycard, so we walked down the fire escape stairs until we found the car park. Yes, I’m sure we feature on plenty of CCTV security footage but we just wanted to get out and get home!

As suspected, we were able to walk up the ramp to exit the car park and we didn’t even have to duck under the barrier: the gap was big enough to walk by and back onto the road. The security guy in his little hut was totally oblivious, didn’t even realise we were there. And, best of all, we’d come out just over the road from our own apartment. Phew, I think we got away with it! Security at that place isn’t that hot. On foot, you need a keycard to open the gates. In a car, you have to use a card or at least get the guard to lift the barrier. But if you want to get in illegitimately, just walk past the exit barrier to the car park, walk down the ramp, then climb the fire escape stairs. Not that I’m advocating anything illegal, but there really is a big hole in their security arrangements.

Again, we had a simple supper and didn’t venture out after dark.

The Great Ocean Road

We enjoyed a big breakfast before the short drive back to the airport. As I was taking pictures of the car, I was asked to move it from the place it was parked. Unfortunately, by this time, I’d already returned its key.

I sat by the window on the flight to Melbourne. I missed the moment when the colour of the earth below changed from ‘red’ to ‘brown’ and from great expanses of desert to small, regular, rectangular fields.

First signs of non-deserty civilisation

We collected our next rental car and drove to Torquay, south of Melbourne but avoiding the city centre. It was a fast drive along the motorways and it felt strange to drive along a noise barrier for such a long distance.

Noise barrier next to the motorway

Donald Trump would be very happy that the Aussies are keeping those pesky Mexicans off their freeways, with a big wall. Big.

We decided to slum it for one night at a motel. Actually, it wasn’t too bad, a nice big room and a hot tub, although in the end, none of us used it.

Jyoti and I walked down the road to Fisherman’s Beach, some brightly coloured birds flying by.

Panoramic view of Fisherman’s Beach

I was impressed by the sundial where you stand in the correct place according to the date, and your own shadow points to the time. It was very decorative, too and I’ve decided that on our next trip, I’ll bring a drone so that I can take fantastic overhead shots of outsize sundials.

Colourful, functional sundial
The Laughing Gnomon

What a difference a couple of days makes. It’s more than twenty degrees cooler here in Victoria than in the Northern Territory. But we thought the worst of the scary animals was behind us. Oh no. The first thing Jyoti saw in the morning was a big hairy spider on the net curtain. I didn’t hear the screams, but maybe these old ears of mine can’t pick up such high, piercing frequencies any more.

G’day, Mr Huntsman, Sir

Not knowing whether it really was dangerous or not, none of us went near it. A huntsman rarely hurts people: apparently most injuries are caused by the surprise of seeing the spider and jumping back or falling off the chair or something.

We were at the start of The Great Ocean Road and our first stop was Bells Beach, famous for its surfers. You thought the spider was bad enough? Look how dangerous this place is!

Bells Beach warnings

The waves were stunning, huge, powerful, and of course there was no chance of us going for a dip in the sea here. But we did have a pleasant walk, watching the water and the surfers.

Wave, hello

There were too many surfers to count and from our perspective, in the distance, they could easily have been a group of seals. No wonder sharks get confused, sometimes.

Waiting for the right wave

We watched one man try to swim out, and every time he made some progress, a wave would bring him back in. He persevered and eventually disappeared into the crowd. And there were some fantastically long rides on the waves, too.

Making it look easy

You not only have to admire their skills, but their courage in going out into such strong waters in the first place.

Then, when you’re all done, you just nonchalantly ride a wave back in, all the way to the beach.

Finished for the day

Competition time! If anyone can explain or interpret this piece of modern art on the back of a street sign, please let us know!

Modern art? Or vandalism?

Tree sap escapes, runs down the trunk and solidifies into a lump of amber. If it’s trapped a fly that has just bitten a kangaroo, then, in millions of years time, they’ll be able to extract the DNA and grow a whole new kangaroo from scratch! There’s a book and a film franchise here, somewhere.

Amber

Point Addis was the venue for a nice stroll too. We could look back at Bells Beach from here and watch the surfers from ‘behind’ as we were high up on a bluff. We saw plenty of seabirds, and we think these are shags over on that rock.

Scraggy rock and sea birds, possibly shags or cormorants

Hooded plovers are an endangered species and we weren’t lucky enough to see any here. Sadly, we did see evidence of how inconsiderate dog owners can be. We’d commented earlier on the amount of dogshit left on paths and tracks, and this sign was written by a very angry person.

Very restrained, under the circumstances

It was a bit of a messy beach, lots of seaweed and shells, all natural stuff, but still messy.

Where’s Liesel?

After all this natural beauty and fresh air, it was only right that we indulge in something tacky. So it was with great joy that we found the Chocolaterie and Icecreamerie.

Caution in the Chocolaterie car park

And our first sighting of kangaroos today.

Kangaroo ice cream

We decided to have lunch and it was delicious. The main ingredients were sugar, fat, sugar, cream, sugar, sugar and a little bit of fruit. But we also were given shortbreads with our coffee and little cups of thick, hot, milk chocolate.

Eclair, mousse, jelly, cream, pastry: your 5-a-day

I tried to help out, but I couldn’t manage to consume all three cups of chocolate. I felt that there just wasn’t enough blood in my sugar stream to cope with even more chocolate.

Liquid milk chocolate

And it may surprise you, dear reader, but we did not have ice cream for dessert, tempting though it was, especially the (genuine Australian) hemp flavour.

Niblick Street. Golf Links Road. Bogie Court. Fairway Drive. Yes, we visited a golf course in Anglesea. They let us in, after we paid, but we weren’t here for a round of golf, oh no. We were here because kangaroos live on and around the course, and we were driven round to see them up close and personal. Very personal, as this little joey will testify.

Breakfast time for Joey

There were lots of them, too, some with collars as they’re part of a research programme being conducted by one of the universities. Some of the golfers don’t like the animals on the course, and some really don’t like the idea of these tours, it’s just not cricket.

Golfers and kangaroos

We walked by Anglesea Beach too, and at the end of the fishing jetty, I was pleased to see a ruler, so you can measure the fish you caught and not measure the ones that got away.

Swingers
Measure your catch here
Shark in the playground
Selfie of the day

The sand on the beach was lovely, too, very soft. And look at the tanlines on this hoof.

Look at the tan on this foot!

We walked up to Split Point Lighthouse, although it wasn’t open to visitors. The views were good from this height, and I was especially pleased to see a sea stack, even with a couple of photobombers.

Sea stack plus
Sunlight through the lighthouse window

There is a great memorial to the men who built The Great Ocean Road, probably the best ocean road in the world, so of course, we had to go and spoil it by standing in front of it.

Liesel and Mick and a memorial arch
Mickey Mouse spoiling the sculpture

Although we’d planned to go to Lorne (where I remember a great coffee shop from 2002!), instead, we went straight to our new b&b in Pennyroyal. It’s on an unsealed road, one of several cabins in the woods, and it’s terrific.

More or less as soon as we arrived, we made friends with the local king parrots. To this end, Phil, our host, had left us with a jar of bird seed.

King parrot on Mick’s arm

At one point, we were watching over half a dozen kings eating either out of the bowl or from the rail of the balcony. There’s definitely a hierarchy: one, presumably the senior, wasn’t going to share the bowl with his underlings.

Kings asking for more food

Just like Samantha from ISIHAC, I do like to see a cockatoo first thing in the morning. Right outside the bedroom window, he was, on the balcony.

Good morning, Cocky

Liesel put some food out and after a short while, he returned with some mates.

Some other little chaps came by to say hello and enjoy our hospitality, too. Red brown firetail finches, apparently, very pretty.

Red brown firetail finches

A hundred photos later, I managed to capture the sulphur crest that gives the cockatoo its name.

Cockatoo displaying his sulphur crest

Jyoti and I went for a bush walk, and in a most unusual turn of events, we visited our second golf course in two days. This one only has three holes but we walked the length of the course without the burden of clubs nor balls. I did replace a flag even though we hadn’t removed it. I assume that’s the correct etiquette.

Tee-off number 2
Green and hole number 2

We heard plenty of birds, but were disappointed not to see any other wildlife. On the other hand, quite glad not to come across any of the snakes that Phil warned us about. But then, he hasn’t seen one for a few years, either. As advised, we stomped around so any snakes would take the hint and vamoose.

In the middle of the woods, we found a child’s slide. I wondered whether I would want my children or grandchildren playing here, knowing about the snakes? Some of the flowers were very pretty and we also found small red berries and blackberries. No, we didn’t try either, just in case.

Airbnb cabin in Pennyroyal

We had another small but very timid visitor to our balcony, so, until we see another one, this picture taken through the screen mesh will have to do. It’s a superb fairy wren, very pretty.

Superb fairy wren

We drove to Deans Marsh, aiming for coffee at the Martian Café. When it finally clicked, I thought the name was very clever. Deans Marsh. Marsh. Martian. Anyway, it’s closed down and the premises up for lease, so no Martian coffee for us. The Store over the road, however, has everything. Coffee, cakes, pies, a shop, a bakehouse, a post office, alcohol, it really is a one-stop shop for the town. I assume the blackboard is in what was once the schoolroom.

The Store at Deans Marsh
Time for some SRN

We found Tiger Rail Trail after Lake Elizabeth proved elusive. We’d ended up in the middle of nowhere, along a dusty, unsealed road, no sign of a lake. But the trail was a lovely, flat walk, along the the track of a long lost railway line.

There are some strange plants in Australia. This weed, we don’t know its real identity, is nearly six feet tall, lots of small twiddly leaves, capped off with a very dainty, yellow flower.

Big, tall weed

Whe ferns were as bright as any we saw in New Zealand, although mostly not as big.

Small, bright green fern

But the best thing of all was our first sighting, in the wild, of a koala. Liesel spotted it first having just pleaded to the gods, show me a koala!

It was a hundred feet up in the tree, unmistakable when you you see it, and very exciting. This was one of those occasions when we would have benefitted from binoculars and a proper camera with a decent zoom lens.

A koala, way, way up in the gum tree
The best close-up we could manage without actually climbing the tree

Forrest is home to Platypi Chocolate. I thought the plural of platypus was platypusses or even platypodes but if chocolate and coffee are involved, I don’t really mind what the place is called! And, to be honest, it’s probably as close as we’ll get to seeing a real platypus out in the wild. It’s a new building, looking out over the woods, a perfect spot for bird-watching, although we weren’t very lucky on this occasion. Except, we had great coffee of course!

Colac Batonic Gardens should be the name. We thought we’d enjoy a nice wander amongst the flowers and trees, all beautifully labelled. But what caught our attention instead was a bat flying overhead.

Fruit bat coming in

Then another. Followed by more and more. We realised, there were dozens in one tree, far more than we’d seen at Manly last week. And all the other trees, too, hundreds of fruit bats hanging there like old black socks drying in the wind.

Lots of bats in the trees

We did look at some of the trees too, of course, as we ambled round.

Peppercorn tree

The bats aren’t universally welcome because there are so many and they’re destroying the fruit trees. On the other hand, they’re a protected species. This is according to the elderly, local couple, both on mobility scooters. They also told us why Lake Colac itself is ten feet lower than it used to be. A few years of drought saw to that, killing off all the fish in the process. One flood started to refill the lake, but they need at least a couple more floods to fill the lake to its original level. At attempt to restock with fish was foiled when a flock of 1500 pelicans ate them all!

There are many species of bird on the waterfront so we continued walking along the shoreline. Spoonbills, coots, moorhens, gulls of course and many more.

Birds by Lake Colac

We returned to our cabin where, after supper, J&L went for a short walk. They saw a couple of kangaroos who soon hopped off. No photo evidence, unfortunately: I’d decided to go to bed early instead, and neither of the ladies had a camera.