Palm Beach and Sydney Observatory

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

Haze over Manly Cove

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

Palm Beach

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

Red flower plus ant for scale

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

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

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

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

Descending

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

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

Plane on the beach with no parking ticket yet

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

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

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

Sunset from the Manly Ferry

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

Sun setting behind the iconic Harbour Bridge

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

Not a very convincing Tardis

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

A well lit hotel
Lighting up the sky

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

Four Candles

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

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

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

The telescope just like the one I want at home

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

Henbury Meteorite – thinking of Sarah

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

On The Rocks

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

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

Mountain haze from Evans’ Plains

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

Mr Evans

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

Mick’s in the noose again

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

Blue Mountains from Govett’s Leap

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

Big beautiful Blue Mountains

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

Selfie of the day

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

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

A very pretty tile just like ours at home

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

Lots of antique artefacts at the back of the café

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

Wentworth Falls view
A bonus nother Selfie

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

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

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

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

A Manly sunset

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

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

Top didg player

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

Pink telephone box

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

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

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

Another Manly sunset

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

Taronga Zoo

Sitting in Manly Library, watching the workers and the students. I’d finished what I needed to do and while I was packing up, I received two text messages. The first was “Do you want a lift home from the library?” The second, timed ten minutes later was “Never mind, we’ve passed the library”. So I walked back to the flat, the long way, via the beach and the back streets of Manly.

If Mark Rothko painted beaches

There is a mural on a wall in Market Lane comprised of several headlines from the local newspaper, The Manly Daily. Some are obvious but some are intriguing. Someone must have read decades of old papers just to find the good ones!

First car across Spit Bridge
Queen Mother thrilled by Manly
Flying fish hits Manly Ferry trumpeter

I love the big tree in the middle of The Corso, the main street. It provides a lot of shade when you jaywalk across the road. Which I would never do.

A nice big tree

Adam got up while it was still dark and went for a run before going to work, as usual. I didn’t wake up in time to walk down to watch the sunrise on this occasion. Helen was singing the song “Daddy’s taking me to the zoo tomorrow, zoo tomorrow, zoo tomorrow”, and so it came to pass. Helen drove us this time although we’d previously gone by ferry. Taronga Zoo in Sydney is one of our favourites, the inmates seem to be well looked after and the view across the harbour of the city is well worth the trip.

I told myself I wouldn’t take many pictures this time, we’ve all seen the animals before and everyone knows what they look like. Huh. I very nearly ran out of digital film.

We had planned to meet up with Jyoti at the zoo, with her family, but insomnia had conspired against her. So she missed out on seeing the Sumatran rhinoceros.

Sumatran rhinoceros (not a real one)

There was a sign telling me that because this is a model, I wasn’t allowed to climb on it. The implication being, if it were a real rhino, I could jump on board for the full rodeo experience.

Baby chimpanzee

The baby chimpanzee was adorable, as babies often are. We won’t ask what this little chap was drinking, but it was a hot day and it hasn’t rained properly for ages.

Cassowary

This cassowary wasn’t behind a fence, like the one at the koala place was a couple of weeks ago. With no obstruction, he looks even more prehistoric than usual, and proud of it.

Itchy platypus

We didn’t see a platypus out in the wild, we didn’t really expect to, so it was good to see this one in the dark, having a jolly good, satisfying scratch.

We saw some koalas too. Neville was on the move, walking along branches, heading for a lady koala. We even watched him walk backwards and then jump up to the next branch. The volunteer told us that Neville was missing a golden opportunity. He was ignoring the other female, the one that’s in season, ready to rock and roll. Don’t be like Neville. Choose the correct female for hanky-panky on pancake day.

Lady koala waiting for her man

Two of the meerkats were having a play fight, but they and the others were making the best of a very small patch of shadow in their enclosure. It was too hot even for meerkats.

Meerkats in the shade

When someone is being tenacious, not giving up with a problem, we used to say they’re like a dog with a bone. No longer. The expression now is, like a baby elephant with a bamboo stick.

Baby elephant v bamboo stick

It was a long stick, and he walked up and down with it several times, trying to bend it, breae it, pull it fully through the fence. Fabulous entertainment.

We took the opportunity of making a quick side trip to Sumatra to see some tigers.

Welcome to Way Kambas

It was a short flight, and I stood all the way. But it was worth it. Weather conditions remarkably similar to those in Sydney and yes, we saw some Sumatran tigers, of which there are only about 350-400 left in the wild.

Sumatran tiger (a real one)

There are three cubs, just a couple of months old, and they should be out and about at the end of March, ready for the public to see. Right now, they’re behind the scenes, seen only via CCTV.

Three baby tigers and proud Mum

We walked down via all the gift shops so that we could ride the gondola up to the top, where the car was parked.

Sydney Harbour

Looking across the harbour towards Sydney, just along the road from the ferry terminal. The drive home was good and we stopped off to buy our evening meal. Home-made pizza. A great idea of Helen’s to use pita bread as a thin base. Prawns and pineapple were two toppings that I avoided but we all had great, unique, customised pizzas. And a bottle of wine

This was our final evening with Helen and Adam in Manly. Our departure tomorrow has crept up on us like those Weeping Angels in Doctor Who. Australia’s been fantastic as it always is and I am really pleased that we’ll be coming back after a few weeks away elsewhere.

Anticipation of a big journey never leads to a good night’s sleep. Oh, never mind, we say, we’ll sleep on the plane. That rarely happens, either.

After packing and showering, Helen, Liesel and I walked down to Manly Beach for breakfast. Any plans we had for a quick last minute swim were thwarted. (We had no such plans.)

Shark sighted

The alarm must have only just been sounded as there were a lot of people on the beach and on the promenade, still dripping. If the shark sighting didn’t put you off, then maybe the signs warning of dangerous currents would. Our plan though was to visit The Pantry where the breakfast was brilliant and the view of the beach breathtaking. Helen showed me how to make an Instagram story, probably a vital skill in the 21st century, but what a palaver for something that self-destructs after 24 hours!

Statue of a bloke and a bike

Helen kindly dropped us off at the airport again and while driving there, we watched the clouds building up, wondering whether it would rain on the clothes currently out drying on the balcony.

Liesel and I rendezvoused with Jyoti who had spent the last few days with her family elsewhere in Sydney. We checked in (there’s a whole story there), got through security (there’s a whole story there, too), I ate my apple, we bought snacks and waited to board the plane.

It’s raining in Sydney, at least at the airport

I only wish we were in the Canaries again. Then, I could say, the rain on the plane falls mainly in Spain. But we’re not. We’re off to sunny Singapore instead. This venue wasn’t originally on our list, but Jyoti used to live there, so Liesel and I are going with her for three weeks and spending another couple of weeks in Malaysia on our own. Exciting but I’m a bit trepidatious, those being two countries I’d never seriously thought I’d ever go to. An unexpected adventure.

Farewell Aussie desert

Somewhere in the northern expanse of Australia, we caught our final glimpse of the desert for now.

Melbourne to Manly

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

Saturday sunrise

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.

Top End Barbering

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.

Hunky Dory

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!

Flinders Street Station

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.

Federation Square

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.

Zoetrope

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.

The piano from The Piano

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.

Hairy man from Cleverman

And now for the next edition of a favourite irregular item: Toilet Talk.

Saving water

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.

Big cubes of concrete

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.

Diprotodon

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 cheeses, four crackers, four ciders for Mick

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.

Sunday sunrise with 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.

Manly Beach

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.

Keith Waterhouse books

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.

Two Walks, Two Dips in the Sea

I didn’t make it, but Jyoti was up early today to watch the sunrise. She joined in with all the activities on offer, as well as a few of her own invention. Balancing on one foot without falling over is a skill we should all adopt.

The main event today was the walk up to North Head. The three of us set off hoping to reach the end and to arrive at the Quarantine Station before it became too hot.

On the path down to Collins Beach, we saw warnings about 1080 poison and ‘soft jaw traps’ being present in an effort to eradicate foxes. Not very nice for the foxes, but who are the vermin who brought them to Australia in the first place?

There were just a couple of people on the beach as we walked by and up the hill again, past the Australian Institute of Police Management and on to the Barracks Project.

Possibly the only bandicoot we’ll see

We walked on through the moving War Memorial area to Fairfax Lookout which looks towards South Head over the entrance to Sydney Harbour from the Tasman Sea.

Jyoti and Liesel walking towards Sydney

In the distance, you can see Sydney’s skyline, including Sydney Tower where we were to venture later on. (Oops, spoiler alert.)

I’m glad I’m no longer a postman and really glad I’m not nine feet tall. As a postie, one of the hazards of the job was walking face-first into spiders’ webs, carefully wrought overnight, across paths to people’s front doors. Here, in the heathland, the spiders make their webs higher than our heads, but it’s still a bit worrying walking underneath, you never know whether one of those gigantic arachnids might drop down your neck.

Just one of many big spiders just hanging around

Jyoti was heard to say something along the lines of “I won’t be going for a walk in the woods”, because of the spiders.

We were on the lookout for lizards too, but no luck there.

North Head view
Sydney viewed from North Head

After lunch, accompanied by a turkey, we walked down to the Quarantine Station. Jyoti and I went for a walk along the beach and on hearing the siren call, I ripped off my clothes and plunged into the briney sea to cool off. We looked at the shells on the beach, the barnacles and the limpets on the tidal rocks. Realising the tide was coming in, I recovered my clothing from the secluded rock and we went back to rejoin Liesel.

Oh to be in quarantine

The Q Station itself is very interesting, and as the poem shows, humour didn’t totally desert people struck down by horrendous diseases.

While waiting for the ferry, we had a drink in the café where I was horrified to see that they serve alcohol to mynas.

Myna on the mooch

We enjoyed the Fast Ferry ride to Circular Quay but I was horrified to see the slow ferry fart a large cloud of black smoke.

The Famous Manly Ferry

SailGP launched over two days here in Sydney Harbour. Six international teams, including GB and Australia compete in identical supercharged F50 catamarans. They can exceed 50 knots. While the race is on, we mortals on workaday ferries have to slow down to 6 knots. Which is great when you’re not in a hurry and want to get some photos! Unfortunately, at the time, I didn’t really know what was going on so photos of the racing boats will have to wait until later. (Oops, spoiler alert.)

Our new boat

We gawped at The Explorer of the Seas, docked in Circular Quay with its 3000+ passengers and scientists on board. Even though it was only one stop, we caught a train to be closer to Sydney Tower.

Model inside Sydney Tower

I last visited this building in 1986, with Sarah and 2-year old Jenny, when it was known as Centrepoint. Then, we were amazed that we could see the airport in the distance. From the viewing deck today, though, I couldn’t see the airport either because the Sun was too bright or because Sydney has literally grown, mainly upwards, in 33 years.

View from Sydney Tower
View of and from Sydney Tower

I won’t be trying Betty’s Burgers any time soon, I’d be worried about the ingredients, and not just the meat.

Betty’s Burgers and … what?

In the evening, we met up with Helen and Adam at Mex and Co, a restaurant that we’d been to before, overlooking Manly Beach.

The following day’s long walk was from Coogee Beach to Bondi Beach, along the east coast, in the full glare of the Sun.

Coogee Beach
Bali Memorial at Coogee Beach

This fascinating, intricate sculpture is a memorial to the 88 Australians killed in the Bali bombing of 2002.

Clovelly Beach’s clear water

There are several beaches along this walk, all gorgeous, all tempting, the water was clear, but we held off until we reached Bronte Beach. Here, there’s a small ‘pool’ separated from the main thrust of the sea by well-placed rocks.

Bronte Beach

Jyoti and I jumped in for a quick, refreshing dip. What I hadn’t anticipated though was that the water was so shallow, my knees would graze the rocks below. We walked to the next refreshment opportunity where, to remove the taste of sea water, I indulged in a chocolate milkshake.

We walked through Waverley Cemetery and mourned the loss of so many people at such a young age. Most of the graves are over 100 years old but the most recent is from only a couple of years ago.

Occasionally, the path approaches a cliff edge and one of us was brave/daft enough to venture that little bit closer to the edge.

Jyoti living life on the edge

And finally, round the corner, we saw Bondi Beach in the distance.

Bondi Beach, a welcome sight

Adam had recommended a place to eat. I had no ID so I wasn’t allowed in. L&J had theirs, they got in and had a lovely salad. I’m not looking for sympathy, but in the first place I went to, the staff looked up and continued to chat with each other. The next one thought the idea of takeaway coffee was infra dig. But I did eventually find coffee and a biscuit.

We’d travelled by ferry and bus to Coogee and we returned by bus and ferry.

In the harbour, the SailGP races were taking place and again, the ferries had to slow right down.

China and GB catamarans
Australia and France cats

Helen is Manly’s top hairdresser and she offered to give me a much-needed trim. As usual, it was the perfect haircut and I am very happy with my hair. My offer to return the favour was declined.

The Australian mangoes were described by Jyoti as being aphrodisiac while Liesel suggested that they should ideally be eaten in the bath, naked. (It’s a long story.)

This was our final evening in Manly, for the time being, and as the weather was so good, we had a barbecue down by Manly Cove beach. Helen prepared all the food and Adam barbecued the meat, corn on the cob and veggie sausages, thereby gaining credit for all the work, as is the way with bbqs.

Adam looking for his head under the barbie
Helen, Jyoti, Adam, Mick, Liesel

We enjoyed watching the Sun set, the sky change colour and as it got darker, we visitors were surprised to see bats flying back to the tree we were under, that being their roost for the night.

Sunset, what a stunner
Looking up at the bat tree
Gotta be quick to catch a bat!

While sitting there, leaves and twigs fell from the tree and Liesel especially was pleased that (a) they all missed her and (b) it wasn’t bird deposit, something she has a magnetic attraction for.

Wide Sky for Anna

Back at the flat, we were treated to Amarula, a cream liqueur from South Africa made with sugar, cream and the fruit of the African marula tree. It was very tasty, very more-ish.

A perfect end to our week in Manly, thank you for your hospitality, Helen and Adam. And congrats again, Adam, on your exciting new job! Cheers!!

One night here, while unable to drift off to sleep, I calculated that on October 30 last year, I was exactly twice as old as Helen. I need to check my mental arithmetic of course, but while that’s an exciting revelation, I felt sad that I hadn’t realised at the time!

Koala Park

It rained overnight, dusty rain, the wind had brought dust in from the desert. There was a slight orange haze in the distance, but it didn’t cause us any problems.

L&J (Liesel and Jyoti) (I thought it was about time I used an abbreviation to avoid having to type both their names over and over, thus, saving time, effort and power, thereby reducing the carbon footprint of this blog, doing my bit) had pedicures and other beautifying treatments while I walked down to the library to write.

By the Manly Cove beach, there was a man feeding birds. He wanted to feed the cockatoos, but the pigeons outnumbered and out-bullied them. The man fought back with a stick. Waving it and throwing it at the pigeons. In the end, he threw his arms in the air. When they came down again he walked off.

Cockatoos v pigeons
Chicken (my birding correspondent will correct me, I’m sure)

Thank goodness the days of totally quiet libraries have gone, otherwise my keyboard would have been deemed the most offensive item. But there were children in one corner singing songs, and in another, someone was reading stories to a separate group of children.

A propos of nothing at all, some nominative determinism in Manly

Sitting next to me was a very smelly man. Not BO, but his coat had absorbed the smoke of a million cigarettes. He popped out a couple of times for a puff and during these intervals I tried to make head or tail of the notes he was reading. He’s a budding musician, and one day, all these (non-musical) notes will be turned into wonderful music. One day. I won’t hold my breath. And I won’t breach his copyright but his doodles, cartoons, random words, phone numbers, games of hangman and other miscellany might well become a beautiful symphony. Equally, I wouldn’t be surprised if it were to become a horrible, noisy cacophony.

I walked around Manly for a short time and sat down with a coffee and biscuit to listen to a real musician. This lady had a good voice, not very strong, perhaps, for busking, but I enjoyed her rendition of songs from many eras.

Pleasant busking at lunchtime

When I met up with L&J later back at the flat, I admired their new eyelashes and painted toenails, and I hope I didn’t miss anything.

Sunset over Manly Cove

I was up at 3am as is often the case (biological requirements) and I woke up again at 5.50. Perfect. I got up, got dressed, got myself out of the house and walked down to Manly Beach. I walked all the way along to Queenscliff hoping to see the glorious sunrise.

Well, there was 100% cloud cover at the time, but as the Sun rose, the clouds parted and small patches of blue appeared. I had fun with my camera, trying to capture the perfect shot of the Sun rising out of the Tasman Sea.

Sunrise over Manly Beach

What was impressive though was the large number of mostly fit and mostly fit, young people up and out so early, each participating in their activity of choice. I did feel sorry for those who had to go to work later on. Boozers, losers and jucuzzi users, the human race was well represented here.

Some were on the beach playing volleyball, though not fully undressed as is the customary outfit. There were yoga classes, tai chi, some folks exercising with “towels and sticks”, weighlifters and the ubiquitous muscle man doing his thing while looking around to see who was watching. A few, more mature, men were power-walking, just look at me baby, swinging these arms, swinging these arms.

Sticks and towels may break my…

There were surfers, cyclists, cyclists carrying their sufboards, dog-walkers, skate-boarders, skate-boarders being towed by their dogs.

Surfers

In the pool at the Queenscliff end of the beach, swimming lessons were taking place. One learner kept apologising for running out of breath. I feel your pain, brother.

The best job probably belongs to the tractor-driver, cleaning the beach.

Tractor cleaning the beach

There were other people taking photos of the sunrise too, some with phones (eg, me) but a couple had the whole kit, big camera, zoom lens, tripod. Amongst the more esoteric activities were pushing over a tree and sleeping in a children’s playground.

Tree pusher
Sleeping in a playground

Back at the flat, some cockatoos were making a noise on the neighbour’s balcony.

Sulphur-crested cockatoo

It was still early in the day and the main activity after 9.00 was attempting to buy tickets for Elton John in concert, in Sydney, in a year’s time. His three-year Farewell Yellowbrick Road tour is very popular. We both sat there watching the wheels go round and round, but eventually, Helen was successful in her quest. I looked at the prices for shows in the UK. We’ll see…

Helen took the three of us to Koala Park where we had a great time making friends with the animals. The park suffered substantial damage recently in strong winds, but no animals nor humans were injured.

Koala

The koalas are very cute, very soft, very sleepy. I didn’t ask the guide whether it was true that all koalas suffer from chlamydia. I do know that we washed our hands quite frequently.

Cassowary

The kangaroos weren’t interested in the food we’d purchased especially for them. But the goats enjoyed it and one of the caged cockatoos was quite happy to receive some free feed too.

While it was interesting to see a wombat, he wasn’t very photogenic, lying on his back with his wedding tackle on full display.

I made friends with a kookaburra, his laugh was fantastic, we all laughed along. Guess what my new ringtone is?

Kookaburra sits in the old aviary

Here I am feeding an emu.

Mick and emu

I feel that I am now on good terms again with the emu race. When I first visited Australia in 1986, I was chased around by Gonzo the emu who thought I had food in my camera bag. (At least, I think that’s what he thought. In the photo, the overall shape of me with a camera bag on my back is very similar to that of a sexy female emu…)

There were some reptiles too, wallabies, a café and the whole place isn’t too big, we came away without feeling that we’d missed out on something.

In the evening, Adam joined us for a picnic down on the grass by the beach. It was very pleasant, bread, cheese, dips, chips and a wonderful sunset.

Helen, Jyoti, Liesel and Mick

To Manly

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.

State Highway 25 next to the sea

We left Brett and his challenging kettle at Te Rerenga, drove through Coromandel Town and stopped for a break in Thames.

Jesus would have a great time here

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.

Rocky beach that we didn’t sunbathe on

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.

Golfer in gum boots (hope he didn’t get a hole in one)

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.)

Fish bones at Westfield

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.

Curl Curl Beach

We saw our first interesting, exotic, Aussie birds, today.

Wagtail
Australian Magpie
Bush turkey aka brush turkey

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.

Bright Sun over Shelly Beach
Early morning swim club

Some folks had their work suits hanging from the trees, waiting for them to emerge from the water.

Sea water pool with Manly in the background

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.

Liesel and Jyoti chatting on the beach

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.

Selfie of the day

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.

Sydney Opera House
Ooh this looks good, especially the feathers

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.

Ibis looking good, especially the feathers

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!

Squeakiest shoes in the Aquarium

<ph squealky shoid squeakiest

Hagfish, the snottiest fish in the Aquarium
Fat-bellied seahorse
Eastern water dragon

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.

Jyoti and Liesel outshone by a stingray

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.

Seaspray, so refreshing

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!