Thursday, 18 June 2015

Down Memory Lane. Australia and New Zealand 2009

Here's a number of notes I put on Facebook when we were on our first big holiday - Australia and New Zealand in 2009.  It was a totally different experience from our year of travel.  There is something exciting and unique about the first of anything and that was certainly the case for this trip. We really didn't know what to expect - some of our experiences were fantastic and others were definitely not repeatable.  Still, it was a learning experience and I remember it was about three weeks into the journey when we stopped talking about our trip of a lifetime and started thinking about where next.

These posts are very short and had no photos added. I've gone back and added a few just to give a wee flavour of our trip.  We traveled without a cel phone and were dependent on hotels having computers. As we found this time, Australia just doesn't have the level of computer service that you expect in North America. As I look at the photos, taken with our new state of the art Canon (which continues to travel with us), it is also fascinating to see how practice improves your photos.

We're here!

According to Nicky at Goway in Vancouver, we've had our one oops and now nothing else will go wrong. I told her that this was the proof why I needed the emergency phone number.

We had our first big plane ride ever. Left Los Angeles on Wednesday night, left Thursday somewhere in the middle of the Pacific ocean and arrived in Sydney on Friday morning. Unfortunately, did not make the connection to Alice Springs - more about that - and found ourselves at the Qantas ticket counter feeling very overwhelmed. Lovely people (after explaining that the one plane had left already) dialed the number I had to the travel agent here, who phoned Vancouver and after half a dozen international calls figured out what needed to be done. So, a night in Sydney, then on to Alice Springs tomorrow. Yeah!!

That said, the Qantas experience was tremendous. BIG plane got to the end of the runway for take off to discover that they had a sick passenger that needed to be taken off the plane - the PHN in me wonders if the symptoms were H1N1? - which meant over two hours to get turned around, back to a place where she could come off the plane and her luggage removed. Then turn around, refile flight plan and be on our way. Bad stuff, but they kept us informed, and fed, all the way along. The only bad problem was that the delay meant we missed our flight. Folks here in Sydney did a great job of dealilng with this totally frazzled and not coping very well tired Canadian.

Winter in Sydney and we were overdressed in shirt and long pants. Trees have a different colour to them. Will post pics when I figure out how to do that. 

stupid computers

so, I uploaded some cool pictures to the net kiosk and was in the process of putting them in the album. Sigh, it deletes temporary files on a time thing - good for security, but that means I can't show you what we've been dong the last four days.

Information overload about the Red Center. Great hiking capped off with a real scramble up to Standley Chasm. We were in a multinational group - French, German, English, Danish and Belgium. Everybody else was in their mid thirties.

The wildlife is unbelievable. Birds of all colours all over the place. We've seen Euros about 5 feet away from us (biggish wallabies that live in the rocks rather than the desert) as well as rock wallabies. Emus, lyre birds. Haven't seen camels yet, but a huge herd of wild horses - who are apparently as much of a nuisance as camels.

Really different attitude toward allowing people to experience history. Areas that Canada would not allow you to even see, we have been able to touch, photograph and walk over. The aboriginal people believe that you give people the choice of making the right decision rather than telling them what to do - Uluru climbing (which is up a sacred men's site) is politely requested that you don't. But if you do, then that is your right. Apparently, it is usually Japanese and American tourists that make wrong decisions :)

Heading out to Coober Pedy this morning on "the Ghan" train. Will try to upload pictures next time I'm near a computer.

coober pedy (white man's hole)

Had a totally memorable experience here. Some of it fantasic. Some of it bizarre and scary. Started with a 15 minute visit in the dark with the night manager of the train (the Ghan) at Manguri - a sign post beside the track only. He reassured us that we would not be left in the middle of nowhere. Stories about dead bodies in mine shafts and dropping a kangaroo on top to conceal the evidence. Driver finally arrived - he had the passengers, who had thought the train arrived an hour later than it did.

Minivan. dirt, not gravel road. 100 km per hour, no seatbelt on driver who kept turning around to tell us interesting things, like where he lost his last tire - and turning off the headlights and then going from 100 to 0 to show off his great brakes.

Got to the hotel in one piece, driver gave us our key - no need to sign in this late. Totally decadent 4 plus star hotel drilled out of rock - will post pics when I find a computer with a usb port.

Next day, all about mining for opals, found some myself, checking out some of the underground dugouts - I would totally live in one. But, again, the suicidal driving - me with my nervousness about heights was gripping the door handle as we came in to a viewpoint and did the swing aroud right (I was sure) on the edge!!

Crazy thing - in amongst all the local aboriginal art, the cafe has four Benjamin Chee Chee prints - the Canada Geese prints that are so common in Canada.

Word I learned. The kangaroos around here are called Marloos (pronounced without much of an R so it makes me think of how Kier pronounced Mario Lemieu as a Tom Thumb - melieu:)

That said, I am alive and totally loved the experience of this bit of the dessert. Thank heavens it was late winter and the tempoerature was a balmy 22 degrees.

We're off today to Kangaroo island.


Tuesday, finally found a pool to swim in - turns out it was the site of the 1962 British Empire (Commonwealth) games! 8 lane fifty meter outdoor and 8 lane 25 meter indoor pool. Totally cool.

Thursday. Tour to Rottnest Island got cancelled cause of the weather - 5 meter waves. Not really sorry to miss the waves. Hiked around the harbour and checked out a cool museum. It would seem that Australia was dragged kicking and screaming into the belief that their aboriginal people were actually people in the mid 1990s.

Friday. The Pinacles, sandboarding on dunes, totally cool.

Tomorrow Ningaloo reef and snorkeling.

So, I didn't get to Ningaloo Reef...

...but you have to make lemonade. We left Perth in a little plane bound for the Ningaloo Reef - world heritage site, snorkeling.... Landed in Shark Bay - Monkey Mia Dolphins - and got told we would be overnighting there cause of mechanical problems. No lights on runway, means no leaving after dark. Nice resort we got put up in, lousy meal service, though - like the wait staff treated us as invisible and smelly lepers.

Finally got into the hotel in Exmouth at 10:00 this morning. To late for any of the tours out to Ningaloo reef that had left at 7:00. Hotel is a converted US Army Base 15 minute drive out of town with no restaurant. It could have been horrible.

The manager welcomed us with open arms. Had waited breakfast for us. Pointed us to the beach where we had three hours beachcombing. Then when we came back, he found us a great afternoon tour of the gorges. While we were gone, the maintenance guy went into town and shopped for our dinner, including bringing us two fresh coral trout fillets that he had caught !!!!

So, here is my very big recommendation. If you want to see this area, and have access to a vehicle, Best Western Sea Breezes.

Back to Perth tomorrow then on to Broome,

The hotel we are staying in is also hosting the State of Victoria swimming and diving teams. That is, their school teams. Yup, Australia has national school championships in swimming and diving. 44 swimmers and 17 divers (plus a few staying with family) ages upper elementary to high school.

Other than the feeding frenzy of over 60 healthy appetites at the breakfast buffet, really nice and polite kids. Our floor was full of them last night and there wasn't a peep of noise in the halls past 8:30.

No wonder why Australia does as well on the international stage in water sports.

Off to Broome this morning and into the Kimberleys in a day or two.

Sydney and World Master's Games.
Unfortunately, much of my memory of the games is going to be the horrid waits for registration and accreditation. Every Aussie that we talk to is apologizing for the horror that is happening. That said, swiming is going swimmingly :)

We are staying in Chinatown. Interesting walking to the train station before 6:00 am and the bars are still serving and the bouncers are still bouncing. It would also seem that every female person in Sydney spends their money on designer fashions and consmetics. Haaven't found a book store, or a music store, or...

Spent a lovely afternoon at Darling Harbour in the Maritime museum. Sydney isn't all bad, it is just 4 million people all in one place.

Tully River

Some of the wildlife we saw in the top end - no posts, I guess
no computers.

Interesting trivia I learned in Australia

So, finally have access to a decent computer - first day in New Zealand - Christchurch - I fretted over nothing as we did catch the plane in Melbourne (imagine a classic running scene to get from one place to another) and we and our luggage did arrive together in Christchurch.

So, these are the connections between Australia and Canada...Captain James Cook, who helped Wolfe navigate to the plains of Abraham, is a big discoverer of just about everything down under. Interestingly, when he was sailing the Endeavor, his mission was "to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before"

Next, Governor Arthur down here (who had a penal settlement named for him in Tazmania) moved on to Canada (Port Arthur which is now Thunder Bay) and sent 100 Canadian Political Prisoners from the Upper Canada Rebellion to said prison in Tasmania.

Franklin - governor of Tasmania before he went exploring (and getting lost) in the North West Passage.

And this one is for Kyle's friend from army days. A Bogan (O says its own name) is a somewhat derrogatory name for a young man with long hair, red plaid flannel shirt, tight black jeans, who tends to remake old cars into very fast ones and often is involved in questionable dealings.

BTW, the six days in Tasmania was absolutely the best time ever. Great small group, excellent weather and activities. Will gossip about it all when I see you in a little over four weeks from now.

Cradle Mountain
My glasses took one for the team

So, anybody who knows me knows how dependent I am on my glasses.

On day two of the Milford Track - which is 9 miles of straight up hill on a goat track then across a pass then straight down hill the emergency path from hell (too much avalanche danger on the regular path), I manage the trip with a great deal of fun and joy. The weather was warm and sunny - highly unusual in the area- we saw animals and scenery to die for. With about two miles to go, on the flat, I was bugging Cal about looking at the scenery rather than his got it, I did a trip and landed on my face, rolled onto my shoulder, then hip then ended up like a turtle on my back pack. Actually smiling as my brain registered that I had heard a crunch of glass.

I must have landed right on the left lens which has a crack straight through it. The glasses are also a bit bent, not being meant to be landed on. I have a small scratch on my nose, but otherwise unscathed.

Cal and I had just passed one of the guides - who checked me out, offered first aid, commiserated and then off we went.

In the warm shower an hour later, I realized that without the glasses in the way, I probably would have hit the rock with my eye...

Let me tell you about the fun of walking the next day in a "light" rainforest downpour through streams along very uneven rocky paths without my glasses.

That said, it was a blast and I would recommend it to anyone. The track, that is, not breaking the glasses.

Milford Sound

We spent half an hour playing with the Keas in the sunshine.
The group one day behind us had to be guided along the ridge holding a rope
 because the weather was so foggy, rainy, windy.

Here's a few more photos from New Zealand.  Lots of great memories, but just not written down.

Fox Glacier. The next summer, we did the same thing
at the Columbia Icefield.  Travel pushes you to
appreciate your own back yard.

Abel Tasman Sea Kayaking

Bay of Islands.

Nelson /radio (Kier was also working at Nelson radio)

Ship Cove, Queen Charlotte Track.  Where Captain Cook came ashore.

"The Ring" store

Dragging the Australian mood out a little longer

From August to November 2009, we took our first trip out of Canada to explore Australia and New Zealand. Our week exploring Cairns to the Whitsunday Islands was one of those memories that will stay with me forever. The Great Barrier Reef was more spectacular than I could have imagined. My first memory was of giant clams with impossibly bright linings and shells that made this quilter itch to replicate the textures. As I floated peacefully in the warm water I began to see the bright coral, the schools of fish unafraid of people, and the occasional starfish silhouetted against the white sand.

I don't know whether it is because I am a land locked water baby, or that I am an indifferent gardener in an area that has a very brief growing season, but silk ribbon embroidery has always made me think oceans rather than flower gardens. I've tried to preserve that magical moment when I first felt the beauty of the reef.

So, in Western Australia there is this neat little "international" quilt competition. The entry fee is a fat quarter of fabric and in return you get a piece of the challenge fabric, make a quilt to the theme and send it to Bunbury, WA.

This year's theme was "memorable moments" - and the obvious moment was snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef. Had a great time making a giant clam shell - the fluorescent pink challenge fabric was perfect for the inside of the shell - and then beaded and embellished every inch of the quilt. Added some shells from various Aussie beaches, and a mother of pearl fish button from Broome. The title of the quilt was something we heard all along the east coast and for me reflected how amazing and unique the experience was.

"It's not the pretty good barrier reef, mate" should be back in Canada in the next month or two if you want to see it in all it's splendor :) . If you want to see the rest of the bunbury international quilt challenge, here is the link: . My plan is a bunch of little crazy quilts with stuff I picked up on the trip - Cal gave up rolling his eyes when I would pick up another seashell or rock. I also have a neat bit of opal that I picked from the local rock pile in Coober Pedy that our guide is probably STILL rolling his eyes at that I didn't want him to polish and make a nice oval shape.

I didn't ever follow through on the plan for a series of crazy quilts.  Other interesting things got in the way.  One of them did get cut up for a book I created in a workshop with Debbie Bates a couple of years later.

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