We landed at Changi Airport and, for the first time ever, we were going to venture out into the wider city/state. Not the first time for Jyoti though: she’d lived here for a while as a youngster.
The taxi took us to our new Airbnb and for such a small island, it seemed to take a really long time. Singapore is just a small red dot of an island off the southern tip of the Malay peninsula. Surely is should only take five minutes to reach anywhere on the island? But, it’s nearly twice the size of the Isle of Wight and that can takes a while to traverse too. I think we (I) were (was) tired from the flight with no sleep, desperate to be horizontal, push up some zzzz.
We finally arrived at our new luxuriously spacious studio apartment. Shirley, our host, met us at the door, and showed us round.
At last, all ready for bed, teeth cleaned, lights out, and what’s this?
It’s like Houston Mission Control over there, all the lights and LEDs from the TV, the wifi router and all the other electronic gallimaufry.
Jyoti makes no bones about the fact that she is here primarily for the food. Liesel goes bananas at the mention of food too. Finding somewhere to eat is as easy as pie. Our first breakfast was Indian: dosa masala. Huge. And a mango lassi. For breakfast.
Jyoti needed to visit the Apple Store in Orchard Road (there’s a long story here).
This is one area that she knows well from many years ago. The journey by train was easy enough and a good way to do some quick sight-seeing.
Following the purchase of probably the most expensive phone in this sector of the galaxy, we went for a walk, shops, lunch, and on to the National Museum of Singapore.
Lunch? For me, the most disappointing meal ever. The picture and description made it look good. Kaya toast is a local favourite. The toast and coconut jam was ok. The boiled eggs were yucky, runny whites, and the tea was too sweet, probably made with condensed milk. The picture on the menu still looks like two halves of a hard-boiled egg to me. The official description is ‘half-boiled’. Just serve up raw eggs and be open about it!
I consoled myself with a pineapple and sour plum smoothie. And later, an apple.
The Museum was fascinating (and cool), the whole history of Singapura through British colonisation to full independence in 1965 and remarkable economic and cultural success since then.
In the evening, we went for a walk in the Botanic Gardens. We’re just one degree north of the equator here and I’m not sure the seasons match what we’re used to. The gardens were lovely, but there were very few flowers, not what you would call a colourful place.
The path was well-made and the only one that had cobbles and bumpy stones was named the “Reflexology Path” and I thought, what a clever bit of marketing.
We entered the area comprising the Singapore Botanic Gardens UNESCO World Heritage Site. I don’t know what’s wrong with the rest of the gardens: it’s not like they’re all weeds or something.
The Evolutuion area was interesting: ammonites embedded in the path, petrified trees and a small homage to Stonehenge.
There’s an area dedicated to plants used for medicinal purposes, another with aromatic plants, and a whole lot more that we didn’t have time, nor legs, to visit.
As we turned one corner, we saw a bird run across the path into the bushes. It wasn’t going to be a kiwi this time, obviously, but we thought it might be something exotic and interesting. As I watched, in the shadow under the bush, I realised the bird was feeding three chicks, clearing back the leaf litter, letting the little ones peck at their own food. Only when she emerged from the shadows did we realise how exciting our find wasn’t.
I know Jyoti’s only little, but look at the size of these leaves. we know where to go should we need an umbrella.
I was sad to learn only recently that Dean Ford, the lead singer with Marmalade had died at the end of last year. I think their best song was Reflections of my Life. The lyrics include the following:
The world is a bad place
A bad place, a terrible place to live
Oh, but I don’t wanna die.
Yes, the world can be a pretty scary place. On our travels, we’ve seen signs warning us of earthquakes, tsunamis, snakes, sharks and now, today, this:
We should have donned our hard hats for this garden, not our flimsy sun hats.
Back in the city centre (actually, the whole country seems to be city centre), we visited one of Jyoti’s favourite restaurants from 1947, Komala Vilas.
It was very popular, very busy and we had to wait a short while for a table. Dosa for breakfast, and now, dosa for supper. Huge things.
We shared the three but, needless to say, none of us could finish. Trying to eat one-handed is a challenge: you’re not supposed to use your left hand while eating. Unless you’re using a fork, which is a handy get-out clause. I would have liked a knife too, I am British, don’tcha know, but a second implement, if available at all, always seems to be a spoon. The lady at the table next to ours was entertained by us, but in the end, we made eye contact and she smiled. Her husband, though, adept at one-handed eating as he was, was a messy pig. No, not pig, that’s inappropriate. He was a very messy eater.
We were in an area named Little India so it was no surprise to pass by a Chinese Theatre performance on the way back to the station.
We returned to our luxuriously spacious studio apartment where we cooled down in the shower and retired to bed. You think my description of the place is exaggerated? Nope.
We’d walked over ten miles today, far too much for Liesel, so we agreed to take it easy the next day.
A year ago in London, Liesel visited a physiotherapist by the name of Emma. Emma’s partner is also a trained PT, and he is Australian. Under some peculiar, twisted distortion and interpretation of Theresa May’s “hostile environment for illegal immigrants”, his work visa was revoked, and he was forced to move back to Australia. And naturally, Emma went back with him. So Britain has lost two fully trained physiotherapists for no good reason.
They are now living and working in Melbourne. Liesel tracked Emma down and made an appointment to visit her
So, the three of us took a tram to South Melbourne. While Liesel was being poked and prodded, Jyoti and I had a quick walk, to get some steps in and, yes, of course, we had a coffee at one of Melbourne’s famed coffee shops.
I always like a good pun when it comes to a shop name and hairdressers and barbers are particularly good at it.
Every now and then, we come across a shop named after a David Bowie song or album. Well, here, we not only had the album, the neighbouring shop was named after one of the songs on that album, albeit abbreviated so as not to offend your nan. Queen Bitch. No, not your nan, that’s the name of the Bowie song.
We caught the tram back to the iconic Flinders Street Station. We didn’t go into the pub over the road that my Dad had told me about: he’d been there after the war, in the late 1940s!
We crossed the road to Federation Square, to spend time indoors again.I had been here once before, when the geometrically and architecturally interesting buildings had first opened, in 2002.
I visited Australia in November 2002 specifically to see the Total Eclipse of the Sun. It was a trip that Sarah and I hoped to make together but she died eighteen months earlier. I was in two minds about whether or not to make the trip on my own, but now, I am immensely glad and grateful that so many people encouraged me to go for it. I had a good time, but it was emotional too. A Total Eclipse, Melbourne, Great Ocean Road and on through South Australia to Kings Canyon, Uluru, Alice Aprings, Ghan to Adelaide. A great trip, but the detailed blog remains to be written! And now, back to the present…
“The Clock” is a 24-hour long video comprised of thousands of clips from films and TV programmes. As it proceeds, the shots of clocks in the various clips accurately reflect the time now, in the real world. The joins were seamless, and although there was no single storyline to follow, it was a very interesting 90 minutes that we spent watching it (minus a short nap, each). Where else would you see Ricky Gervais and Joan Crawford together? Snippets from films not seen for years, decades even. Christian Marclay is responsible for this colossal labour of love, but surely he must have employed many researchers? Yes, we thought about returning later in the day to see a different segment, but that will have to wait until next time.
ACMI, the Australian Centre for the Moving Image is based here too. Yesterday, Chris had suggested visiting this collection of film and TV related exhibits, and the zoetrope in particular.
As it spins, a strobe light gives the illusion that the individual models are moving up and down.
One display celebrated Australian film and TV. The selection was OK but I was disappointed that The Paul Hogan Show was not represented. My flat mates and I used to watch that on late night TV with a tube of Fosters, and it was the funniest show evah!
I did enjoy watching an 18-year old Kylie Minogue with sister Dannii perfoming Sisters are Doing it for Themselves!
The whole place was very reminiscent of the old MOMI, Museum of the Moving Image, in London, but this was much more interactive.
The piano from the 1993 film, “The Piano” was here, but I wasn’t allowed to play it. I’m not sure Michael Nyman would have been allowed to touch it, to be fair.
Replicas were made for the film. A light one, to carry up the hill. And a heavy steel one to film sinking in the sea.
There is an Aussie TV fantasy drama that I now want to watch: Cleverman. They employed Weta Studios to design the special effects, and the aboriginal mythology underlying the story looks fascinating.
And now for the next edition of a favourite irregular item: Toilet Talk.
I saw this sign in the toilets and I thought, if I pee twice, I could save eight litres of water. Also, if I’m walking out in the woods and need to go behind a bush, when Liesel rolls her eyes I can just tell her that I am saving 4 litres of water! All this on the day that Network Rail have decided to abolish the six shilling charge for using the public toilets at Waterloo Station. Six shillings, 30p, Liesel will confirm I’ve been whingeing about this charge for years.
Bollards! It’s a shame that these large blocks of concrete are required to protect buildings in our cities, but I do like the fact that someone solved the Rubik’s Cube here.
We visited the Aboriginal Cultural Centre because it was time once again to shake our heads in disbelief and despair, weep for the past and feel absolute shame at what our British ancestors are responsible for. Australia is the only commonwealth country still without a treaty with its original people. Small pox, massacres, kidnappings, stealing their land, oh it’s a horrible story.
This chap cheered us up. Diprotodon was the largest marsupial ever to live, about the size of a rhinoceros and is thought to have died out about 45,000 years ago. So chances are, it did live alongside humans for a period. Two metres tall, three metres long, but what a cute, cheeky face.
The other day we found a Chocolaterie and Ice Creamerie. Today we passed by a Fish and Chipperie. But our destination on Lygon Street was Milk the Cow Licenced Fromagerie. It was just along the road from Reading’s Bookerie, where I’d met Barry Humphries, as mentioned before.
Milk the Cow is a combined cheeserie and winerie and actually, my Cider Flight was fab, delicious even.
Four slices of different cheese each accompanied by a specially selected cider. With crackers and bread. Very nicerie, very tasterie.
We passed many, many other restauranteries on the walk home, some with very long queues of people. Our ice creams were just the right size: one scoop was enough, a second would have melted far too quickly.
The worst thing about Melbourne? It’s a great city, it feels a bit like London in places, with its nooks and crannies and alleyways and arcades. But, we have walked through more clouds of cigarette smoke here in the last couple of days than we have during the previous several weeks. There are non-smoking areas, but there are probably more smokers per capita here than in any other city we’ve visited.
Now it’s time to say farewell to Victoria – the place to be. Goodbye to Victoria – the education state. And cheerio to Victoria – the only state named after a Kinks song. Two of those three slogans appear on car registration number plates, or regos.
In the morning, before the Sun came up, we were greeted by the Moon and Venus.
Several shots were taken of which, this, the first, is probably the best. An easy distraction from the task of packing. The only extra item I had to squeeze into my pack was the apologetic bottle of wine from a couple of nights ago.
At about 11pm, we heard a very loud, humungous crash. We checked on Jyoti, she hadn’t fallen through or out of bed and everything else seemed to be OK in our little apartment.
When we left the building in the morning though, we had to limbo dance under the Police Crimescene tape around the entrance and the neighbouring passage. We could see no evidence of a car crash or any crime. We’ve found nothing in the news so can only be grateful we weren’t delayed for interrogation.
We took a tram, then a Skybus to the airport. The flight to Sydney was uneventful apart from the disappointment of not being offered any tea or a snack. Don’t sit in row 22!
It was a joy to be collected by Helen again and although it was warm here, it wasn’t as hot as Melbourne had been. And Manly looks magnificent as it always does when the Sun’s out.
Most of the afternoon was taken up with watching some fighting on TV. Adam’s a big fan of UFC. The Ultimate Fighting Championship, is better/worse/bloodier than boxing, takes place in an octagonal ring, usually over five 5-minute rounds of jabs, kicks, holds, bars, parries, jumps, punches, with elbows, knees, feet, fists all involved. I don’t think this will ever become my favourite sport.
Despite discouragement, I went for a walk in Manly, keeping to the shady side of the street. I watched people playing and/or sunbathing on the beaches.
Helen walked down the road and we met at Fish Bowl where we collected bowls of rice plus veg plus sauce for our dinner. At the grand old age of 31, I still take twice as long to finish a rice-based meal as everyone else. Ridiculous.
We watched “Bohemian Rhapsody”, the new film, on TV, which we found very enjoyable. I was especially pleased to see Kenny Everett portrayed, back at “Capital Radio when it was good” which I am trying to get everyone to adopt as its official name. And of course now, we just want to hear all those old Queen albums in full again, especially A Night at the Opera.
Monday in Manly was mainly medical matters, refilling prescriptions (me), typhoid and hepatitis A jabs (both), dental check-up and clean (both). My plans for a massage made the cutting-room floor: no need to stir up typhoid and hep A juices unnecessarily.
So here I am once again, in Manly Library, typing away in the corner, this time sitting next to (inter alia) books by Keith Waterhouse, who I used to enjoy reading, gulp, decades ago.
Meanwhile, Helen and Liesel have gone to a shopping mall to do some shopping. I missed out there. (Didn’t really.)
The results are in, they have been independently verified and certified and all the judges agree. Shine on You Crazy Diamond (pts 1-7) was the final track we heard in the car. Partway through the Ss, nowhere near the Zs. We’ll pick up this alphabetical trawl through our music on another occasion. Meanwhile, Liesel and I have decided we do need a much wider range of music, by a larger selection of artistes. We need to find a way to balance out the discrepancy in volume between loud and soft songs. And we need a random shuffle that is truly random, that doesn’t discriminate against certain people or certain tracks or even some whole albums.
Oops sorry, I usually warn uninterested viewers that this “Music News” is about to appear. But I didn’t this time. If only there were some way to go back in time and fix it.
That’s two nights here, time to move on, to move on. First stop was Cape Otway Lightstation. We spent more time here than anticipated, it was so fascinating. Jyoti was delighted to find another warning sign depicting her favourite kind of animal. Not.
The seas are quite rough here, it’s easy to see how so many ships came to grief along this coast. Cape Otway was often the first sight of land following the long voyage from Britain. It also marks the point where the Bass Strait meets the Southern Ocean, although the ‘join’ isn’t as obvious as that seen at Cape Reinga in NZ.
The path to the lighthouse itself was not in use but the ‘Caution’ tape confused some people: they thought there was no access to the lighthouse at all. And with an air ambulance, some police cars and other medical staff, it was easy to suppose there had been some kind of accident.
Alas no, the lighthouse was open and as always, I began to count the steps as I climbed, but was distracted by someone running down very, very fast. So I’ll just say, there are about 967 steps to the top of Cape Otway Lighthouse.
Although this is the wrong time of year to see whales in the ocean, we did actually see one outside it.
And against all odds, we saw a kangaroo too.
One thing we weren’t prepared for was how much this area was involved in the second World War. Trouble not just from the Japanese, but the Germans were here too, laying sea mines between Cape Otway and Wilsons Promontory, attempting to prevent access to Port Phillip Bay and Melbourne.
A large area is devoted to understanding the local aboriginal culture. In the Talking Hut, Dale told us about the local history. He’s of aboriginal descent, his great (x3?) grandmother is Bessie Flower, the first ‘educated’ aboriginal woman. Dale is white, he also has Dutch origins.
Outside on our short Bush Tucker tour, he showed us which plants were safe to eat, and we sampled the salt bush (salty), the local rosemary (sweet, then very bitter), the ‘lemonade’ berries (fizzy). The attractive red berries are not edible, but when he squeezed one, the juice was pure magenta dye. Will we eat these leaves out in the wild? I suspect not, we’ll be far too cautious.
He told the story of his 5-year old son going out into the bush, catching a small bee, tying a filament from a particular plant around it, so that when it flew back to its nest, he could follow it. He then pulled a lump of honeycomb from under the stones. One root which resembles a turnip can be cut up and is used for relief of toothache.
When I was at school, we were told that Aborigines had been in Australia for between 20,000 and 40,000 years. It is now thought that it’s more likely to be 100,000 years, although the evidence is flimsy right now.
Cape Otway has the second purest water in the world: the actual purest is on Tasmania. It also boasts the oldest known farm in the world, at 6000 years of age. It really is a place of superlatives.
As we drove away from Cape Otway, we continued to look in the gum trees for a you-know-what. I was driving and when I saw something cross the road in front of me, I braked and we came to a halt. It took a moment to register, it was so unexpected, but there it was: a koala. We didn’t want to frighten him, but equally, we wanted photos, so we all leapt out of the car.
The old-looking koala walked off into the woods surprisingly fast. On seeing the picture, one of my daughters compared his hairy ears to those of a grandad’s. I have no idea to whom she is referring.
At Castle Cove, we enjoyed the sunshine and the views and this was the venue for our long beach walk of the day. Keep on the path. Snakes. We walked down the steps, noting that the sea was rough, the tide was high but even so, there were quite a few surfers.
The rock wall at the top of the beach was beautifully stratified, very soft sandstone and it had a greenish tinge due to iron. There were a couple of small caves, too small to explore and in the middle of all the sand and rocks, this pretty, solitary plant,
Gibson Steps gave us our first sighting of the Twelve Apostles, the iconic limestone stacks formerly known as Toots and the Maytals, no, formerly known as the Sow and Pigs.
What we saw was in fact Gog and Magog, east of Castle Rock. We walked 1.1 km along a further section of the Great Ocean Walk, through the visitors centre, to see the actual Twelve Apostles. It was late in the day, the Sun was low, so we saw the stacks in silhouette. Even so, what a remarkable sight. We walked as far as we could along the path to the Castle Rock lookout. And as if things weren’t scary enough already, this is one of the signs.
As it was Jyoti’s birthday, we thought we’d buy a cake at the café at the visitors centre. But it was Sunday, it was late, it was closed. We began the 1.1 km walk back to the car, away from the Sun now, so a little more comfortable, especially with a slight breeze. L&J were ahead, and some Japanese people pointed to the ‘porcupine’ crossing the path and by the time I caught up, the echidna, for that is what it was, was in the bush.
What an exciting day: a koala and an echidna! And then, as we were driving awa from Gibson’s Steps, in the rearview mirror, I saw a kangaroo crossing the road.
There are many other places to visit on the Great Ocean Road, but as it was late, we headed straight for our new b&b in Nirranda. A shopping trip in Peterborough was disappointing, the single, solitary supermarket mostly specialised in fishing bait.
The b&b is built from old shipping containers. I thought surely a metal wall would make it really hot inside. And so it proved. Thank goodness for the ceiling fans.
We didn’t realise at the time, but we shared our room with a grasshopper. We’d seen ants and flies and heard a mosquito or two, but we didn’t know about this chap until the morning.
I let him out into the garden. One moment he was sitting there, the next, gone. Probably the strongest jumping leg muscles in the world. Well, it is a superlative area. Witness the petrol price at Lavers Hill: $1.70 per litre, compared with $1.20 to $1.30 elsewhere.
Liesel and Jyoti went shopping, all the way to Warrnambool, which takes its name from the whales that thrive in the ocean here. Just not at this time of the year: we’ll have to come back to go whale-watching.
Later, when J&L and I had eaten lunch, I tore down the large curtain from the living room window to take with us. We’d decided to walk to the nearby beach, about a mile away. Well, it was hot and there was no shade but it really did take much longer than the advertised 20 minutes.
This bush looks weird, we thought, and we certainly weren’t going to taste its leaves. It can only be described as a turd bush, since its fruits (?) look like animal droppings.
The dusty, stony, gravelly path continued on and on, up and down, disappointment every time the sea failed to come into view over the brow of a hill.
But then, the end came in sight.
Holding tight with both hands, I started my run-up towards the cliff edge. Suddenly, I heard someone yell “Nooooooo!!!”
Apparently, you can’t go hang-gliding just holding on to a curtain, you have to use specialist equipment such as a hang glider with landing wheels, a harness and a helmet. Oh well, I tried.
The walk down to the beach was difficult too. A very narrow, steep and sandy path. We were all wearing sandals, not the best footwear for such terrain.
We gave up, discretion is the better half of Valerie, or something. It looked like a nice beach to walk on too, what a pity.
We drove to The Arch, an unusual rock formation, but we couldn’t work out how it got its name.
We drove to London Bridge, an unusual rock formation, but we couldn’t work out how it got its name. Especially since London Bridge has fallen down and it’s now just another stand-alone stack.
There’s a beach here too, another nice looking beach, ideal for a walk, but we’re asked to stay away because of the penguins. We didn’t see any penguins of course, but there were plenty of footprints in the sand. Penguins or other birds, we don’t know.
On the path back to the car park, I spotted a small black lizard, probably a skink, but it might have been something more exotic: my hasty photo just shows a black blur in the grass.
We drove to The Grotto, another unusual formation. As we went down the steps to see what is really just a hole, a young girl ran up by us, and then she ran back down past us. She and her two friends were planning to swim in the still water but I did take this picture.
And finally today, we drove to the Bay of Martyrs, part of the Bay of Islands. I walked down to the beach, attempted a selfie with the Sun setting behind me, over the sea.
For supper tonight, my contribution was to pick tomatoes from the plants in the garden. The courgettes weren’t quite ready yet and we didn’t fancy the rhubarb. We had cheese and crackers and chutneys with red, red wine, a belated birthday party for Jyoti. Almost. Still no cake.
Before going to bed, we all went outside to gaze at the stars and to listen to whatever animal was making a noise like fff-fff-fff-fff over and over. In fact, it was still doing this later on when I got up briefly. By this time, the Moon was up too, so only the brightest stars were visible.
Jyoti and I were sitting on the step outside the house, drinking our teas, shooting the breeze, watching the trees, when Liesel told us we had half an hour left. Uh? To pack and to move on. We were away with five minutes to spare. Bit of a shock to the system though: both Jyoti and I had totally forgotten that this was moving day.
We had a pleasant drive to our next b&b, but I did have an agenda. We need a new electric plug adapter since the old one broke. I tried fixing it and it worked well for a while, but here’s a tip: sticking plaster, Band-Aid, Elastoplast, doesn’t reliably stick to plastic for very long. And another tip: if you need tin foil to help make an electrical connection, try to use pieces larger than the torn-off bits from the blister pack containing your drugs.
As if lilies aren’t enough, we soon drove by a farm with a strange collection of animals: sheep, goats, llamas and camels.
Warrnambool didn’t provide us with an adapter. “Oh no”, said the man in the electrical shop, “we don’t sell that sort of thing. Try the Post Office.” I thanked him through gritted teeth for his help.
It’s hard to know exactly where the Great Ocean Road finishes. The GOR, B100, ends at Allansford, near Warrnambool. There, we joined the A1, Princes Highway. On the other hand, some of the literature for Port Fairy considers it part of the Great Ocean Road. Either way, when we arrived at Port Fairy, “The World’s Most Liveable Community”, we’d definitely reached the end of the world’s largest, and arguably the world’s most functional, war memorial, for this trip.
It’s a cute little town, enhanced by protective/advertising hoardings at the base of the lampposts.
After a coffee break, we went to sit by the beach for a while. Yes, sit by the beach. Not on the beach. In the car, in the car park, looking at the beach. Why? The wind was strong and cold.
I still went for a walk, solo, and found two memorials, close to each other, both emotionally moving but for very different reasons.
We checked in to our new, first floor, b&b and wow, we have a view over the beach. But the wind was still strong and we decided not to sit and be blown off the balcony.
I fancied another walk, and I thought the lighthouse at the far end of Griffiths Island would be an ideal goal to aim for.
Short-tail shearwaters or “Mutton birds” nest on the island, but again, we’re here at the wrong time of year.
I did wonder whether these nesting holes might currently be occupied by snakes or other squatters. And then out of the corner of my eye, I saw movement. A kangaroo was hopping across the field.
This was the first one I’d seen in the wild, although J&L had been lucky a few nights ago.
I followed the track to the lighthouse, but the amorous couple sitting outside deterred me from walking right up to the door.
The track followed the beach for part of the way, and I was surprised to see volcanic rocks sitting amongst the soft, white sand.
It was warmer now, the wind had calmed down and I thought maybe J&L would go out for a walk later.
While I was out, Liesel and Jyoti had been planning ahead, making plans for the next month or so. Bookings were made, despite issues with various websites and credit cards.
Unfortunately, up in our b&b, out on the balcony, the wind felt just as strong as ever, though not as cold.
We were talking about our various medical issues and the consensus is, we’ve been pretty lucky and injury-free. Liesel’s piriformis is still a PITA and it affects other muscles at different times. Other than that, a few insect bites, a couple of broken nails, cracked heels is as bad as it’s been.
Now is the time for those viewers not interested in the musical soundtrack to our travels to press the yellow button on your device and be transported to a totally different place.
We didn’t bother connecting my device to the car’s Bluetooth at Uluru because we were only there a couple of days. But with a new car in Melbourne, it felt right that we should play the whole Slim Dusty album for Jyoti’s enjoyment. We then returned to the alphabetical playlist. Picking up where we left off in New Zealand with Nomad Blood. At the time of writing, we are in the Rs. Q was interesting. The first one was a mistake: somebody at the CD factory had entered the song title as Que est le soleil? instead of Ou est le Soleil? And of the genuine Qs, 4 out of the 6 were 2 versions each of 2 David Bowie songs. What will we do when we’ve reached the end of the Zs? And will we even reach the end of the Zs by the time we return this car?
It was wonderful to finally meet Helen at Sydney Airport. Not only had there been a couple of minor hiccups, the day itself was a milestone. Helen’s Mum, Sarah, and I married exactly 40 years ago today. The maelstrom of memories and emotions never really threatened to overwhelm, but it was there, just below the surface.
We left Brett and his challenging kettle at Te Rerenga, drove through Coromandel Town and stopped for a break in Thames.
Challenging kettle? Yes, the safety mechanism was kaput so you had to hold down the switch to reach boiling temperature. For a couple of days, you also had to hold down the lid, and when the kettle realised we were leaving, it forced us to hold down the lid again. It’s always a wonderful feeling when you can beat inanimate objects at their own little games.
We had to return the car with a full petrol tank. The range of prices in NZ is very wide. Today, we paid $1.85 per litre, but we have paid $2.09 elsewhere. Anything about NZ we won’t miss? Yestailgatingdrivers.
I’m sorry we never adopted the kiwi national costume: gum boots, though.
But then, we never played golf either. The rest of the photos taken that day were of the rental car: we caused no significant damage, but the loose chippings and gravel on some of the roads were always a little bit worrying.
We had a good flight, landed a little late at Sydney but we had gained two hours by travelling west across the Tasman Sea. Welcome to West Island, as some kiwi maps label Australia!
The machine accepted my passport, but the photo taken could ‘not be identified’ so I had to join another queue.
Most people’s bags turned up quickly on the carousel, but not ours. We waited and waited, along with about thirty or forty other people. When challenged, I assured the security guy that I was waiting for my bags but found it easier to walk around than to stand around.
Helen drove us to her luxury apartment in Manly where again, we were stunned (in a good way) by the view from her balcony. Adam had prepared pizza for us which was very welcome.
Our first trip the following, beautiful, day was to Brookvale, to the shopping mall. I got a SIM card for my phone. Liesel didn’t: we thought we could manage with just one.(Spoiler alert: we can’t. Liesel will be SIMmed up very soon too.)
Helen, Liesel and I went for a gentle walk at Curl Curl beach, where the sea was rough, the sand was warm and the sky was blue.
We saw our first interesting, exotic, Aussie birds, today.
Before we left home in England, I read a book written by an American couple. They’d travelled around Australia with a view to seeing, and listing, 400 species of birds and other animals. We’re up to 3 so far. No intention of reaching 400: we have no such target.
We met Jyoti who’d been staying with cousins elsewhere in Sydney for a week. We’ll be travelling with her for the next month or so to far-flung places. But tonight, we all went for a meal at Manly Skiff Club, or to give it its full name, Manly 16ft Skiff Sailing Club. We watched the Sun set on our first full Aussie day while I drank two, yes, two pints of beer and ate a huge chickpea burger and chips. Helen’s fish and chips was huge too. And Monday is $10 steak day which might help explain why the venue was so busy!
It’s a short walk up a short hill to the apartment, but after accompanying Helen to Coles to buy some ice cream, it was hard for this old duffer. I was just keeping up with Helen, she said she was walking at my pace but, phew, I got my breath back eventually.
One day, I will get up early to watch the Sun rise over the beach, but for now, getting up and meeting Jyoti at 7am was early enough. She’s staying an an Airbnb just over the road from Helen and Adam, very convenient.
We walked to Shelly Beach, admiring all the hundreds of people up for an early stroll, or swim.
Some folks had their work suits hanging from the trees, waiting for them to emerge from the water.
The forecast was for today to be the hottest February day ever. And it was. 32° by the time we’d walked back to The Corso.
Plans to walk as far as Queenscliff were quickly shelved in favour of breakfast. And where better to go than Three Beans Café, my favourite coffee shop from previous visits.
Helen was working at home today, so Liesel and I returned for a quick shower and departed so that we’d be out of her hair (and out of her client’s hair).
Phew, what a scorcher. There are a million ways of saying it, and I think we covered them all during the course of the day.
Jyoti, Liesel and I caught the ferry and seeing the Harbour Bridge for the first time, for me at least, was a magical moment. Yes, Helen drove us over it yesterday, but somehow, that’s not the same.
Adam started a new job this week (rotten timing with us visitors) and I think he still appreciates the commute into Sydney: it’s still far better than the Waterloo and City Line in London.
After disembarkation at Circular Quay, we first walked around to the Opera House. There are a couple of interesting shows coming up, but we won’t be around for one about John Lennon.
So on this, the hottest day ever, we walked through Sydney to Darling Harbour. This wasn’t a random wander, we were going to visit Sealife Aquarium.
Inside, I recognised it as a place I’d visited previously, and I think it was with my sister a few years ago. But the name, Sealife Aquarium, doesn’t really register as being something really special or different, not in my mental filing system anyway!
<ph squealky shoid squeakiest
Sometimes, you can see eastern water dragons along the walk to Shelly Beach. We weren’t so lucky today, so it was good to see one here, albeit in a tank. Jyoti’s not a big fan of reptiles, so probably didn’t appreciate this exhibit as much as I did.
This one took some staging. Jyoti and Liesel can talk the hind legs off a donkey so it was easier for me to jump into the aquarium, and position the stingray right behind them so that I could take the picture.
The ferry back to Manly Wharf was cooler and the spray on the window led us to think that a nice drop of rain would be very welcome right now!
37° was the highest temperature recorded today, in the end. In the evening, I went for a quick swim in the sea, as did Adam. Liesel and Jyoti had left earlier, but I couldn’t find them anywhere along the beach on the Wharf side. I did enjoy the sunset again, and I was pleased to see that a lady was taking a photograph of a seagull perching on a pole with the Sun right behind: just the sort of silly picture I like taking!
Although I wasn’t particularly hungry after this morning’s huuuge veggie breakfast and last night’s huuuge burger, I did consume half of a Fish Bowl. Helen bought them on the way home from work (she had visited more clients later in the day) and each bowl contains salad, rice, noodles, tofu, fish, you decide what you want, and the ‘normal’ size bowl is plenty for me. In fact, too much: Liesel finished mine!
The strong wind that appeared as if from nowhere, late afternoon, stopped just as suddenly. But we heard it again during the night, but strangely, we didn’t hear the birds that had woken us up the first morning here.
Just a quick note about the musical soundtrack in our car. We’re in the Ns now. The final song we heard when we dropped the car off was Nomad Blood by Martha Tilston. That’s us, that is, we have a bit of nomad blood right now, plus a spot of wanderlust together with the travel bug. Perfect!
When I was growing up, most maps of the world were Mercator Projection. It made the UK look really big and important. Greenland was the same size as Africa. Australia loomed large and pink, the home to an aunt (I later found out there were two aunts and their families) and a place of extreme mystery. In the bottom right hand corner of the map, there was a little pink semi-colon. Later on, we would come to think of New Zealand as Australia’s poor little next-door neighbour.
This, the Land of the Long White Cloud, has hosted entertained us for two months, and we love it. Everywhere we go, the views are stunning, the Sun is in the sky: why oh why would I wanna be anywhere else? Yes, we missed Lily Allen in concert in Auckland last weekend, but the song must have been in the air somehow.
Our final three days in New Zealand are coming to an end. As ever, we know we’re moving on very soon and we know we’ll be homesick for the old place for a short while. This, despite the rain. Yes, it actually rained over night and into the day. But people have been talking about a drought here and we even saw the unusual spectacle of a golf course where the greens had been allowed to turn brown.
We returned to Coromandel Town, partly because that’s where the nearest Post Office is located, inside a supermarket and sharing its counter with a bank. Also, it’s the only way to visit Thames: there aren’t many roads to choose from.
On the way, we saw a whole flock of oystercatchers on a beach. Beaches on this, west, side of the Peninsula are mainly rocks and stones, whereas those on the east side have all been sandy.
We had lunch in Thames at a place run by a couple from Melbourne.
We’ll get to the real Melbourne very soon.
I had to see the River Thames, so named by James Cook because it reminded him of London’s River Thames. It was wide and had water in it, but there was nothing like a St Paul’s Cathedral next to it, nor a QE2 Bridge over it.
We decided to drive back home continuing in an anti-clockwise direction around the Peninsula. One of the main attractions here is the high point, The Pinnacles. We saw these high, almost vertical rocks from a distance but because of the road conditions, we weren’t able to get too close. There are plenty of walking and hiking trails, some of which take several hours, or even days. The old kauri forest would have been a fantastic sight, can’t wait to see the newly planted trees in a couple of thousand years time.
On the other hand, the view from one pull-out (layby) was obscured by trees which I thought was slightly ironic.
Sometimes, I’m quick enough to take a photo of an exotic bird, and even though she was driving, Liesel spotted this heron before I did. It watched me watching it but cooperated by not flying away.
We ended up back at our local beach, Whangapoua. As we did the following day. The weather conditions could not have been more different for our two visits.
We walked along the beach and made friends with a dotterel and her two chicks. They’re very wary of people (quite right) but they have no speed between standing still and running at 90mph: even the baby!
This Island still looks more like a whale to me than a lump of pumice, but as they didn’t invite me to join the naming committee, I guess we’re stuck with Pungapunga.
I was hoping to make some new friends at New Chum Beach. I waded through the Pungapunga River as it flowed across the beach, that was OK. Not so good were the rocks that formed the route to Wainuiototo, especially as I was wearing flip-flops. I tried going barefoot, but the rocks were round and a bit slippery. New Chum Beach will have to wait until next time.
On the way back, I was pleased to bump into my old friend, the dotterel chick from yesterday.
There were a few people swimming in the sea… well, being bumped about by the waves. But one guy was having a great time kite-surfing.
And we found out what happened to the ozone layer above New Zealand. The kite-surfer was using it.
After walking the length of the beach and back, I found this lady sitting on the beach.
On request, I went to the local shop to buy us ice lollies. It’s got to the time now where we’re trying to spend all our New Zealand coins.
We drove back to the b&b for the final time, unloaded everything from the car, wondered how we’re going to fit it all into our bags and moved on to something else.
One thing we miss in the car is Billy Connelly’s voice coming from the GPS (satnav). The Google lady gets it wrong sometimes, getting her left and right mixed up sometimes. One place she took us to was totally wrong too. When required, Billy tells us to do a U-turn when we can. Google just recalculates a whole new route, which might entail a U-turn eventually, but it might be a long way off.
Music news coming up… not for everyone.
One more thing we won’t do before we leave NZ is to reach the end of the music on my device, which we’re still playing in alphabetical order by song title. No Zs before the end of NZ.
We’re in the Ms right now but should make significant progress tomorrow on our nearly 3-hour drive to drop the car off at Auckland Airport.
The first few Ks were all Hawaiian, Ka something. Ms include Mary, Mathilde and Matilda. We’ve had some surprise Christmas songs too, which I’d forgotten were there: Let it Snow, Let it Snow and Mele Kalikimaka for example. Four, yes, four different versions of Life on Mars? were followed by Life on the Moon!
We need a wider selection: we have no Crowded House, to name but one kiwi band. And we’re about to split NZ too.
The first was half and half black and white sand. And the black sand was unbearably hot underfoot, even with flip-flops on. The thought of lying down on a blanket here was not appealing. And, as I have no photos, I guess it didn’t strike us as being particularly photogenic either. So after a quick walk, we made our way to Kuaotunu.
This was much more pleasant and far more intersting. Northern New Zealand dotterels are an endangered species with just about 250 pairs on the Coromandel Peninsula. We were really lucky to see a pair, and what we believe to be the last chick, almost ready to fledge. It really was wonderful to see such a rare bird, and to be absolutely certain.
Two rare dotterels
Finally, we found the Hot Water Beach. Naturally heated water occurs just below the surface on the beach, and two hours either side of low tide, you can dig a hole and climb into your own naturally hot spa. No, we didn’t. No shovel. We could have rented one, but we didn’t. Instead, we tried a couple of deserted holes only to find the water was no longer hot.
Liesel v lagoon to reach Hot Water Beach
This was a nice beach for a longer walk though, as we watched people swimming, falling off surf boards and especially enjoying the young men watching their girlfriends dig the holes.
There was one variable oystercatcher who bravely walked up to the water’s edge, but then ran back up the beach as the waves came in, his little legs going round and round like a cartoon bird’s.
Oystercatcher doesn’t like getting his feet wet
On the way back home, we stopped near Coroglen, formerly Gumtown for a picnic lunch by the banks of the Waiwawa. We said g’day to a couple who walked by but I was taken by surprise a few minutes later when I walked over to take pictures of the river, only to find the lady bathing in it.
Later on, I went down to Whangapoua for some groceries. Well, one item, one grocery.
Let’s confuse a Victorian time-traveller
If Charles Dickens or any other Victorian were to visit the shop, they would look up at the list of wares in total wonder. What the Dickens is all that stuff?
While in the vicinity, I further investigated the Pungapunga River as it flows into the sea, opposite Pungapunga Island. This beautiful Maori word means ‘pumice’ but, because of all the seaweed on the nearby beach, I bet most people say it should be Pongaponga. It was a bit strong and definitely not to be sniffed.
Most people? No, probably just me.
Nighttime brought its own wonders. The sky was stunning, spelt g, o, r, g, e, o, u, s. It was so dark here, I couldn’t even see where to walk outside. And, there were no nightlights to worry about, just the odd car going by. Yes, I took some photos but mostly, I just looked up in wonder, agape and a-gawp, pondering life, the universes and everything. Not even the mosquitoes spoiled the moment. I suspect the rustling in the nearby bush was nothing more harmful than a hedgehog: it may have been a kiwi, they do live around here, but I didn’t want to frighten anything by using a light.
Orion and Sirius (top right)
If there had been a kiwi in the bushes, and if had I captured, murdered and stuffed it, then displayed it in a lovely case, this is what it would look like.
Kiwi and egg
This is one of the less attractive exhibits at Coromandel Mining and Historic Museum. The mining paraphernalia was very interesting, as were the displays about the Silver Band, the Freemasons, the Hospital and, right at the back, the old jailhouse, physically moved from its original location.
Having a break from walking round the museum
There were many gold nuggets on display, all genuine, real gold, somehow supported by the feeblest of wood and glass cases.
Viscount Canterbury 890 oz
Outside the museum, there is a young kauri, planted in 1997.
It has a long way to go to catch up with the one mentioned inside which was chopped down a long time ago. Chopped? It took several hours to saw, chop and cut it down.
45,000 new kauris have been planted on the Peninsula since 2000 under a project called Kauri 2000.
We wandered around Coromandel Town for a short while, it was only 26° here compared with 30° back at home, and with a slight breeze too. Cloud was moving in and even though it doesn’t feel like it now, rain is forecast for early tomorrow morning. And they do need it. There have been bushfires in NZ and even when we were in Coromandel, the sirens went off and we saw three fire appliances race down the road.
We had a look in a couple of the gift shops and this doll caught my eye.
It reminded me that we have no Alice Cooper on the MP3 player music device phone thing that we’re using. Anyway, the link is in the lyrics: We go dancing nightly in the attic while the Moon is rising in the sky. If I’m too rough, tell me, I’m so scared you little head will come off in my hand. (Billion Dollar Babies.) As Liesel said, there’s long list of people not represented on my phone, so we’ll have to rectify that.
Today’s attempt at a selfie has Auckland way over there in the distance, behind Waiheke Island, where we recently spent a few quiet days.
The road to this lookout was long and winding and turny and twisty and steep and narrow. It is hard enough work, so we have decided to give the 309 Road a miss: it’s much shorter, just as twisty and steeper but it’s unsealed, so very dusty, and apparently there’s a farm from where pigs wander onto the road.
There are some beehives just down the road from where we’re staying. I had to go and check because they don’t really look like hives I’ve seen before: more like show boxes.
We’ve noticed a campaign to stop mining in the Peninsula. There is a small mine run by a local family but other people with dollar signs in their eyes want it to expand. Most (?) local people are against this expansion. I wonder why?
“Mining is the pits” says the sign outside somebody’s house.
It’s hard to believe that a year ago, we were planning to move house and then go travelling. Out of the darkness came forth this very blog. We documented the nightmare that is selling a house and buying a flat. And we’re sharing our travels and adventures with anyone willing to join us here, or because they can find nothing better to do.
So, as we tuck into our first anniversary cake and swig our anniversary champagne out of the bottle, we would like to toast all our readers, followers, supporters, stalkers, anyone who’s liked or commented and especially anyone who’s come back for more. Cheers!
We stayed fairly local today, visiting Mount Maunganui.
We saw the mountain itself and thought actually, every High Street should have a mountain at the end. But the town itself was heaving. So many people, and we’re not used to that any more, really! So easy to become snobbish and not want to hang out with other tourists and visitors.
There was a street market in the park which we had a quick look at. Disappointingly, there was no bread on offer, but we did, of course, buy a cake! (Disappointing on two counts: we like fresh, crusty bread but also, we later found the sliced bread at home to be mouldy, grrr.)
The live music was very good and enjoyable. We were even treated to an Oasis/Bob Marley medley, possibly a world first. Wonderwall and Stir it Up: who knew they’d sound so good together?
Maunganui wasn’t the only mountain we saw in or near Tauranga. There were mountains and mountains of containers in the docks, the biggest port on North Island. I know they’re important for trade, we all need food and other stuff, but when you see that many stacked up just the other side of the fence from the road, they’re really ugly. On the other hand, the mountains of salt didn’t look so bad. It could have been sand, after all.
There are three Toll Roads in New Zealand and today, we found the third, so yippee, a hat-trick for us, and another opportunity for me to forget to pay online later in the day, be chased down by the authorities and banged up for a long period.
Kaiate Falls was the venue for our first proper walk of the day. Maybe a hike: it was down a sloping path and back up, including 244 steps.
The cascade of falls was quite stunning and despite warnings about microbial contamination, some people were playing in the water.
The soundtrack here consisted of running water, birds and cicadas.
We drove to Te Puna Quarry Park, passing through both Judea and Bethlehem on the way. This was a lovely park and we enjoyed a longer walk through the bush. Without the rushing water, somehow the cicadas seemed much louder and more confident.
We still don’t know the definitive pronunciation for this populous but hard to spot insect. Is it sick-arder? Or sick-Ada? Or sicker-duh?
As well as some pretty and fragrant flowers, there were some good sculptures here, some of them quite humorous. And as for the unexpected animals, there were plenty of those:
We watched the birds for a while and realised that if we weren’t travelling light, we might have had binoculars with us. And a camera with a good zoom lens and a tripod. But that would be a different kind of trip, and we’ll bear that all in mind next time.
Afterwards I realised, I should have had my photo taken here, wearing my proper wide-brim hat, packing a six-shooter, sitting on horse. Then I could have been The Runestone Cowboy. But it’s too late now.
You might think we’re easily entertained, and sometimes we are. The car stereo thought it was performing a Two Ronnies sketch as we drove from one scenic viewpoint to another. It kept displaying the name and performer of the track before the one that was actually being played. “That doesn’t sound like Ofra Haza, it sounds more like Eddi Reader.” And so it was. The only remedy was, of course, to turn it off and on again.
I finished Nicholas Nickleby a few days ago and my next book was totally different. A collection of stories, poems and essays written by British Muslim women. Items suggesting that Islam is a wonderful religion were followed by stories suggesting that it really isn’t, especially as far as women are concerned. Lots of food for thought, and so, my next book is a bit lighter. Lethal White by Robert Galbraith. Much to Liesel’s chagrin: she wanted to read it first!
And while we were sitting on a bench, enjoying nature, within a couple of minutes, I used a couple of words that I very rarely use. Liesel commented on the greyness of the clouds. “Portent of a big storm,” said I.
Liesel pointed at an object gliding in the air, suggesting it was a butterfly. “No, it’s a bird, surely? I didn’t know butterflies glid like that.” But sure enough, a little later, we witnessed butterflies gliding between the flowers.
My phone downloaded and installed a Major Upgrade last night. OMG, it’s all changed. Buttons have moved, some are well hidden, functions that used to be one ‘click’ are now two. Even keys on my Logitech keyboard have been reprogrammed: the “ and the @ have swapped places. Android Pie. The first bite was a little bitter, but I’ll adapt to the taste fairly quickly, I hope. And one day, I might even find exciting new flavours.