Monday, March 20, 2017

Here we come Melbourne with a few side trips


We next met up with Dan and Yo, sailors we had last seen in 2009 in Trinidad!  They have a cottage in a Tamboon national park.  A fresh water river, the mouth of which is closed off, until there is enough rain to break the sand bar.  We spent time hiking the sand dunes, going thigh deep into water to not have to climb that sand dune again, walked the long sand beach, helped a neighbour careen his boat and clean the bottom...And identified a sandling, a bird Dan, another birder had seen before, but not in Australia.    And the food!!!  Dan and Yo circumnavigated and have picked up recipes from all over the world, although their favorite is  Asian, I think.  They like to keep everyone off balance from a food perspective, a Thai dish, with a Brazilian, with a... You get the idea!  After six days in Tamboon, it is time to our next stop.

Cheryl, Yo, Karen, Dan and their Grandson Marlo


Finally,  Melbourne.  First night the biggest rain in the last 2.5 years, welcome to Melbourne. We are staying at Dan and Yo's house, while they remain in Tamboon for another couple of weeks.  It is a century home, beautifully redone.  And they are foodies as we said, so the kitchen is amazing!  We had stopped on the way to Melbourne to buy fresh prawns and scallops.  So that was dinner, done in butter and garlic not bad for our first night!  Someone has to do it!

 We had called a friend of Dan and Yo's, Ross, as we needed help getting into the house.  Next day we go for a walk with Ross and his dog, along one of the smaller rivers flowing through Melbourne.  The next day he took us on a tour of the east arm of Melbourne Bay.  Lovely, all brought alive by someone from the area!

 We did the walking tour of Melbourne with a great guide.  The architecture is lovely, so many period building saved, even if they don't serve the same purpose anymore.  The history is that the gold rush brought in so much money when Melbourne was young, that she has these lovely buildings.  Oh, and drop bears in the trees.  They have metal plates around the trees in many parks, so the drop bears don't land on the tourists!  And if you believe that, do we ever have a bridge to sell.  Okay they are actually to keep possums out of the tree, but it was a funny story our guide told us.

 A break from Melbourne, we went to Ballarat, then onto the Great Ocean Road.  In Ballarat we spent two days with friends from Paradise Resort in Fiji, Bevan and his wife Lisa.  Bevan came out to help with the rebuild of Paradise, post Winston.   They have  every animal you can imagine!  OK, 5 horses (mostly Clydesdales), 4 dogs, 2 parrots and 1 cat!  We went on a carriage ride behind Major, one of the Clydesdales.  And helped with a new, very large, cage for the two parrots.
Bevan, Karen and Major
 
The kids


We drove down to the beginning of the Great Ocean Road, via the Geelong wine region.  Some lovely wines, but starting at $40 a bottle!  Regardless we had a lovely tasting and then lunch overlooking the vineyard.  The lady conducting the wine tasting recommended a couple of wineries in Geelong itself, so we carried onto those wineries.  One was fully booked for lunch and tasting!  We had tastings at two others.  I commented to one lady that they were very busy, she said "no, the lawn is usually full".  We then carried on to the start of the great ocean road. Stayed in Torquay at place called the View on the Grossmans a cute self contained one bedroom, reasonably priced and almost brand new, highly recommended this place.
THE Great Ocean Road

 
 
 
 
 We drove the great ocean road as far as Port Campbell the first day.  Many lovely views on an up, down and around road. It is truly an amazing drive as long as you are ahead of the tour buses.  We lucked in at Port Campbell as all the places where booked or really expensive but Cheryl saw a sign for a cottage for $80 so we went in.  It was a 2 bedroom self contained cottage and the man was very nice and gave us some tips for the area plus told us about a cute little restaurant called the Fat Cow on our route back to Melbourne the next day.

Grotto on the Great Ocean Road
The next day we left early for the great ocean road as we would hit all the highlights and wanted to do so BEFORE the tour buses!  So we saw the 12 apostles (now only 11), the grotto and the bay of islands, from many lookouts!  The grotto was a serene place that day, the day before with the wind and seas it would have been wild.  From the great ocean road we stopped at the Fat Cow for a burger and fries, which we split, real chips, made from potatoes! The man was right it was great food.


While in Melbourne one must go to the horse races especial when you are staying 1 km from the Flemington Racecourse the Home of the Melbourne Cup.  So off we go on a rainy cold Saturday to a yearly event call Black Caviar, apparently it was a famous horse so they named the race day after it.  It was quite a day.  The men where all dressed up in suits and hats and the women in summer dresses and high heel shoes and the grounds are beautiful.  Oh did we mentioned it was a rainy day and cold well we had on long pants and rain coat and we had a lot of the women saying we were the smart ones.  After 6 races and watching all the side events they had around the track we came home $9 poorer.  No big wins but fun.  That night we met up with another Paradise resort guest, Margot for dinner and walk around white night, an event happening in downtown .Melbourne.  Talk about crowds we think all of OZ was at this event.  We escaped to a roof top bar and made plans to catch up the next day at Margot for dinner.
 
Melbourne at night
 
Roof Top Bar with Margot
 
It was lovely to catch up with Margot and walk around her neighborhood with her 2 dogs.  Dinner of roasted chicken and all the fixins, our favorite home cooked meal.  Yummy.
 
Melbourne is in the centre of several wine regions.  We ventured tot he Yarra Valley and had lunch at Chandon, because we could!
No caption required!

When we were at Paradise sometime last year, Allan the owner had his mom and some of her friends from the Seniors home visited the resort and we happened to be there at the time, we had a Hoot with the ladies which they call themselves the Lexington Ladies.  As Lexington Gardens is in Melbourne off we went to have lunch with the Allan's mom, Stella.  Stella had arranged a lunch for us and the ladies that we met at Paradise.  Lexington Gardens is really beautiful and food was super and chef was quit a character.  Once again it was a lot of laughs, we are so glad we saw them again.  Our cheeks still hurt from laughing so much. 
The Lexington Ladies plus 2


 The next day we went to the Victoria Art Gallery, International, which was lovely.  Then as we were walking around we say the War Memorial, so headed that way.  While it is called a War Memorial, and it is, it is also a museum.  We toured the WW l exhibits,( which were very well done) at which point we were museumed out, and headed back to Dan and Yo's.  We arrive back at their place about two hours after Dan and Yo.  They already had all their stuff away and Yo was happy playing in the garden!  They went to dinner at their son's, and we finished our prawns and scallops, once again, someone had to!

Melbourne from the Dandelong Mountains
 We went to the Dandelong mountains for the day, lovely look out over Melbourne.  We found a nice restaurant on the hill for lunch.  As we made our way back to Melbourne we stopped for a walk, but the trail was also a memorial for the men who served on the Kokoda trail in Papua New Guinea in World War ll.  More history.

Dan and Yo  prepare a several courses dinner.  Once again, we put out a cheese plate, then we had a amazing of soft shelled crab (wow) sticky rice with Chinese sausage, green mango salad and chicken skewers coated in fermented bean curd.  Just because they can!

We said our good byes to Dan and Yo the night before as we made an early start for Canberra, a 7 hour drive.  Back in Canberra we were greeted by Rob and Lee and pink bubblies, a Paradise tradition.  It was great to be back.  We were getting good at cheese trays, so we did it again.  Then Rob made a lovely Chicken, Bacon in a cream sauce pasta.  And then a game of  Cabo broke out.  We laughed so hard that another morning of  sore checks and smiles left over from the night before.

Off we go to must see  Australian War Memorial.  We got there early, had lunch in and stayed until we were museumumed out.  While Karen like the coverage of the first world war much better at the Melbourne museum, the coverage of the second world war and the war in the pacific in particular were excellent.  Once again, going with a retired military person allowed you to ask lots of questions!  And get answers!  And we found out the full storey about the Kokoda Trail. That night, no cheese tray as we had leg of lamb for dinner with all the fixing's!

Bondi Beach
We left early the next morning for Sydney, stopping at a bakery recommended by Rob and Lee and the perfect distance from town.  A lovely pie or sandwich depending on who you were and onward to Sydney.  Karen had called the hotel and we could check in early, this was a bonus.  We did, dropped our bags so the car was empty, then onto Bondi Beach.  While it was perhaps not as nice as some of the beaches in Northern Sydney, it is iconic, so as good tourists we were there!  Fish and Chips on the waterfront, a walk on the beach.  Pictures from some look outs, a walk through centennial park and we were done.  Wine and Cheese in our room.

We had breakfast across the street, as the hotel did not serve breakfast, must have picked the best place, it was busy and really good, Karen had poached eggs, Cheryl had pancakes, which turned out to be crepes, yummy.  We turned in the car to Jucy, having done some 7,300 kilometers in two months!  I would say we did Australia proud.  The funny thing was the driver of the shuttle van was from Ono, one of the islands in the Lau group of Fiji!  It is a small world.

 
Thank you all for an amazing time!!

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Bye Sydney, Hello Brisbane and Canberra and Few Points Between

Now we have wheels!  We picked up our Juicy car and we did well, it really isn't a sub compact, but a compact, in great condition.  Cheryl drove, which was a good thing, as I kept dropping off to sleep.  We stopped at Port Macquarie for a walk around, then onto Coffs Harbour, where we are staying for two nights.  The forecast was for all rain, we had sun and rain, which made the drive pleasant. The next day was all rain, so we went to a movie.  Not a thing to do in Australia, as it was $18.50 per adult!  a bit of a shock!

Next stop is Brisbane!  On the way up we stopped at Bryons Bay, and walked to the light house.  Aside from being a lighthouse with great views it is also the furthest east point of Australia.

Google Maps is amazing, got us easily to Gail's.  We met Gail in Fiji diving.  We were greeted at the door by Bella a lovely Greyhound, not so much of a guard dog, as she just let us take the chain off and walk in!  Bella was great company,  Gail and Karen definitely had many doggie walks.


We visited a  Koala and Roo reserve, our first Koala and Roo experience..so cute.  Sundays are local market day, way more variety than in Fiji.  Mushrooms for Karen and corn on the cob  and fresh peas for Cheryl.  Heaven.

Just for fun we went to the dermatologist/skin cancer clinic, that Gail had arranged for us.  We both got some bits burnt off, and then got the all clear!  After that we went into some stores, including boating camping fishing, their MEC.  Bought a couple of things for the boat, we can shop now as we have the car to haul stuff.

Dinners at Gail's have been an food extravaganza !  Fillet minion, salmon, kangaroo meat...!  Someone has to do it!

We spent a day just walking the waterfront!  (Did  we mention the two chandleries we went to?). Lunch at a cafe in a marina, looking over the boats!  What else!

Yup we even went camping at Lamington, a national park, 2 hours south of Brisbane.  Bev a fellow cruiser we know from our marina in Fiji has a camper and lucky for us, an extra tent.  Gail who camps, went to her closet and pulled out a bag with all the other camping things we would need, voila we are set!!  We spent two nights!  We did one or two walks each day.  Great company, while we have known Bev for a couple of years, it has been fleeting meetings, so lovely to spend the time.  Walking with her is like walking with a naturalist, amazing.  Bev names all the birds by their call or appearance.  Our favorite part was probably the bird song each morning!  You woke to a symphony as the birds greeted the new day, it didn't last long, but sure was beautiful.  We would also have a few wallabies hopping around our tent in the morning as well.  Way cool!!  Making fruit salad was interesting as the parrots would land on your arm or head wanting to sample your breakfast.

My breakfast buddy


















Karen, Cheryl and Bev at Lamington 

Back in Brisbane we tried for the walking tour, but it didn't happen.  So we did our own.  As with Sydney, some wonderful buildings that have been beautifully maintained.

 We went to a park with Duck billed platypus, pandymelons, pretty faced wallabies, kangaroo...  the animals are at this place have been injured and can't be put back in the wild.

Found a great dive shop!  Got all the things I wanted and my Christmas present from Cheryl from 2015!  We now have new rash guards, neoprene vests, for an extra layer under our dive suits.  Yes we are Canadian, but have been living in the tropics for 8 years!


 A day visit to another cruiser who has their boat beside us in Fiji.   Andrea lives just 1 hour outside Brisbane in the hinterland. Their house is amazing, built so that it fits into the landscape.   A little walk to a waterfalls with her and her soon to be daughter in law.  We finished the day with a lovely lunch and then back to Gail's in Brisbane. 
Karen, Andrea and Cheryl
 
 Another lovely day in Brisbane, this time a northern suburb of Brisbane,  called Redcliff. 
Cathy lives there, who has also has a  boat at Vuda, called Wings of the Morning.  After coffee and a gab, we went sightseeing.  Turns out that the Bee Gees grew up here! 


 We had a lovely lunch on the waterfront after half our tour.  Then finished the tour with a walk along a pier, newly resorted and a lagoon, man made for swimming, all very well used by the locals.  Lovely to see families all out fishing or playing together.

Once again we headed into the Hinterland, the hills, this time further north of Brisbane.  We did a couple of walks and then had a lovely lunch at a place Bev had recommended.  We went to the ginger factory, only to find out it is now just a theme park.  We booked a room at the YHA  hostel  in Noosaville,  which is the north end of the sunshine coast.  We met up with Cathy and Bev for a tour, drink and dinner!  Cheryl feel in love with Oysters here. The next morning we got up before sunrise to see the sunrise on the walk on the point at Noosa.  Saw our first Koala in the wild!  Worth getting up early!

Back to Gail's for one of many lasts nights dinner  which was simply, a cheese plate!  Served on a wooden board say a foot and a half by two feet and it was full.  The three of us did not finish it but certainly made a dent, yummy! We did really have a last night dinner as we went with Gail and her mother to the Queensland Yacht Squadron.  It was the second time we had been there, both times with Gail, both times good food. 

Gail and her Mom overlooking Brisbane
 


First night dinner on Straddie in our Shack yummmy
Early the next morning we said our "see ya" to Gail and headed to the ferry that would take us to Straddie island (North Stradbroke Island for those who speak English). We were early so we got to go on the earlier ferry which meant we would have more time to explore the island while we wait to check in to our Shack.  Yup it is a 2 level thin building the Ozies call shacks.  As we are wondering in the cemetery what do see 2 Kolas.  Not bad for our first day on the Straddie.  Then later we are sitting have a glass of wine on our deck at our Shack and along comes a kangaroo! This was a way cool first day.  
We got up one morning to see the sunrise and then we spy a herd of roos okay several kangaroo, along with a mom and joey!    Mama Roo would bend over to eat, Joey would lean out and eat too!  The island was beautiful and  peaceful.  Fresh seafood!  Prawns and oysters brought in that day and let me tell you, you can taste the difference!  Cheryl is really hooked on Oysters now, but when we buy them at the supermarket they just don't match Straddies.  We walked the beaches, walked to the fresh water lake and generally relaxed.  We also had lunch with Matty and Bobbie and son Sammie on Australia day.  Later, drinks at Matty and Bobbie's restaurant.  The restaurant has an amazing view!





The view on the point in Straddie






Matty, Cheryl and Bobbie at their restaurant
This our room
Then back to the big island, or back to Australia as one Straddite put it!  Our first night was in Tenterfield, at Stannum house, a period mansion, restored and furnished to the turn of the last century.  They have a chain across the rooms, so you look in, lovely.  Then they remove the chain and tell you this is your room!  It really was mansion, so is this what it feels like to live in laps of luxury.  A little walk around  the town, it reminded us of a lovely small town  in Ontario, with amazing friendly people! Did we mention at the mansion they put on a buffet dinner for $10 OZ and it was surprising really good.  Highly recommend this place.

By fluke we stopped for lunch at a rest stop on our way to it Musselbrook, the rest stop kind of looked like sails of a boat.  Turned out to be the memorial to the first and second fleet to come to Australia.  A guy wanted to put one up, no one was interested until he found Willow Tree, a town, a small town, many kilometers from the sea!  We stayed at the John Hunter Motel, nice and clean, once again a small town serving the mines in the area. 

Another pit stop at Cessnock for the evening, we stayed at the Royal Oak, in a word a 'dive'.  But the good news we are now at the start of the hunter valley,  Australia's oldest wine growing area.  Known for its whites!  Especially Semillon.  Cheryl is trying to deal with white wine tastings, being a red girl!  We had one of the most informative wine tours ever at Tyrrell's.  Australia wine is grown differently from Canada's, they trestle to keep sun off the grapes, sometimes even spray ash on the vines so the grapes don't burn!  And so on! 

Next day was a long drive to Canberra, the nation's capital.  We are staying with Lee and Rob, friends we meet at Paradise Resort in Fiji they were vacationing there and we said we will be in OZ  and they invited us to stay at their place when we are in the neighborhood.   The day we arrive, Rob takes us to a deep space listening station, a part of NASA.  To get coverage 24 hours a day there are stations in Spain,  Australia and the USA, who knew.  This is where Neil Armstrong was heard when he said "one small step....". 







Rob and us at the Parliament house
Canberra day 2,  we went to parliament house.  As it turns out, security there was Rob's last posting, so we had an amazing tour, while the building is beautiful and reflects Australia, Rob's commentary made it all come alive.  Canberra was a planned capital city, and it was planned well.  Rob and Lee took us up Mount Ainsley, which has an amazing view and shows you the layout of the city.  Canberra is built with a central city surrounded by pods of suburbs.  As the city grows it will be one big city, right now there is lots of green space.  To top off the day we also went to the museum.  We had drinks at Rob and Lee's club, the Burns Club.  It was a great day, but a long one.  Too short a visit, but time to move on. 

Laugh, Love and More Laughter....O'yeah and Sore Cheeks

Part 1
 
We have had an amazing time in Australia,  mostly because of our friends who we have meet over the years cruising plus some new friends who we just meet here in the Land Down Under.  Our friends invited us into their homes, summer cottages, boats and even camping and showed us their magnificent country. We have had a opportunity to re-bond with old friends and got to know our new friends even better. We cannot thank you enough for making or OZ experience special. We hope that one day we have an opportunity to open our doors like you all did for us. Thank you!
Cheryl and Karen 
And here is the nitty gritty of our OZ experience
An easy walk across the street to the Fiji International airport!  Checked in before the coffee shop was open!  We did our duty free shopping, all ready for New Years, three bottles of Chandon.

We had arranged for a shared shuttle to Dee Way, where we will be staying at a friend's place, Ian's.  We will meet the shuttle driver at Maccas, are first clue that not all Aussie's speak English!  Many Aussies shorten or lengthen anything, so MacDonald's becomes Maccas.  Just us and a lady on the shuttle, the lady suggested to the driver that we take the Sydney bridge, not the tunnel, and between her and the driver we had a very informative tour of Sydney, complete with a low down on the Sydney Hobart Race!

Safely at Ian's, we now needed food and wine for dinner and to get connected, so we went to Aldi's, a food store.  Thank you Google maps.  Dinner fixings in hand and the SIM card package, now all we need is wine.  Where will we find that Karen asks,  "woollies" is the answer.  We followed the hand gestures and found, BWS, short for Beer, Wines and Spirits, owned by Woolworths, a.k.a. Woollies!

After a lovely dinner Karen goes to set up her phone...all is good until it tries to verify who she is.....hmmm, a Canadian passport, oops!  So we go back to Aldo's the next day and the manager, Chris, made it happen!

Day 2 off we go to do a coastal walk to Manley Beach, a lovely lunch overlooking the water or the pedestrian shopping street, depending on which way you are facing.  We took the bus back, our first use of our Opal cards, the Sydney transit system.

Next day we went north to the Bannerjoey Lighthouse at Palm Beach.  Lovely views.  We couldn't find a place to eat, so went back to "The Newport" and had lunch there.  As there was a marina at the end of the street, we

Bannerjoey Lighthouse from Sophrosyne

had to go see the boats.  As we were walking down we hear "Cheryl, Cheryl!" Turns out it is Doug, from Sophrosyne.  We knew Doug and Maureen from Fiji, fellow Canadians!  Doug offered to take us on his boat to Sydney Harbour the next day, who could resist that offer.

With our stuffed packed up we left Ian's apartment and off we go to SAIL TO SYDNEY HARBOUR....way cool.  So we hopped on the bus to Newport, do remember that our stuff includes all our duty free...2 small backpacks, 1 large and a now a bag full of Duty Free Bottles.  Beasts of Burden.  We arrive just as Doug does, dinghy ride to Sophrosyne and off we go.  Cheryl and Karen drive while  Doug started to put the boat back together as he had just had some boat repairs done the day before, as he is readying her for a passage to New Zealand. We dropped the anchor in Rose Bay two boats away from our friends on Huck.  We are set...ready to watch the fireworks the next night.  The Hucksters, Joe and Heidi, came over right away, it was fantastic to see them after almost two years! With hugs and Kisses all around ....it was a tremendous welcome from Heidi and Joe. Dinner on Huck, beautiful hamburgers and laughs and more hugs and practice light show on the bridge to boot, what a day.  We ended up calling it for the night  and went and crashed on Sophrosyne.   Tomorrow is News Years in Sydney....we were like kids waiting for Santa. 

THE BIG DAY....

Coffee first, then Cheryl helps Doug with a boat project, some things are just easier with 4 hands.

 The New Years events start early!  So we are all on Huck for dinner, yummy pulled pork and all the fixin's.  First up is the air show, our dinner time entertainment.  Later we settled in with a cheese plate and some wine as we watched the family fireworks. If this the family fireworks what is the adult one like???..
Heidi, Joe and Cheryl getting ready for 2017
.Already our minds where blown away.  What next???Then the Chandon was popped  and all we could say was WOW...WOW and more WOW.  plus a few OOH, AAH and ZOWIEs as we watched the midnight fireworks!  Amazing! Fantastic! Wonderful!, Super! !!!!!! That was one for the bucket list.

 
 
video
video
The next morning we moved to our next new home Chateau Huck, yup the Hucksters boat. After the bags where stowed off we went to move to another anchorage, a calmer one.  It wasn't the weather, but the number of boats and therefore the seas!  Okay does this mean we get to go by the Sydney Opera house and under the bridge we asked ....yupper...So off we went.  We were supposed to be on the bow watch and pointing out ferries and boat traffic but instead we were like little kids pointing at everything but the boat traffic.  Joe and Heidi were killing their self laughing at us on the bow taking pictures and point every which way BUT... Half to say, that is some way to start a new year! 
 
 

After a night on Huck we moved back onto land, to the Morgan Hotel.  A nice hotel in a great location, with cooking and a view of the opera house and Sydney bridge from the roof.LIG no Life is amazing.
 
Okay we are in Sydney so let's explore, yup we find a free walking tour. After 3 and some hours we had absorbed a lot.  The feet needed a rest so we found a restaurant in the Rocks which we learned about on the tour and had a wonderful lunch.  With rested feet we decided to  go up one of the towers on the Sydney bridge some 100 feet short of the top of the bridge.  But it cost $15, not $280.  Then we walked back to our hotel.  Over 24,000 steps,  (actually, Karen had to do some circles in the room to cross the 24,000!)

The city is quite young, even by a Toronto perspective.  Their tallest building for 40 years was a church that was maybe 6 stories tall.  (Whereas Commerce Court was built 1930's and was 30 odd stories.). Their tallest building now is 700 feet, compared to the CN tower at 1500 feet,  but still much of the architecture is the same, some beautiful century old buildings, well maintained.  The Rocks is very much like the distillery district in Toronto.

Then there is the bridge!  It is still the largest or heaviest bridge in the world and it was finished in 1932!  We can imagine the tension in the air when the north and south sides joined up!

Next day we meet the Hucksters at Circular Quay, where the opera house is.  We went through the botanical gardens and the art gallery, then started a pub crawl!  So it was a good day, but a long day.  The girls got into Rose at the roof top bars, Joe was sensible, he stayed with beer.


Thank you so much  Doug (Sophrosyne) and Joe and Heidi on Huck for an amazing start to 2017.