“Homesick”

Room with a view

Room with a view

lilies

lilies

The terrace

The terrace

I sit here, honestly I don’t know what day of the week it is! I only know it is the 26th today as I have just booked three days in the resort hotel below. Some concerns but not a care in the world, the only guests. So peaceful, tranquility personified, the most wonderful view across a lake, lilies jostle for space in the evaporating water to the hills in the steamy distance. Swallows skim millimeters from the surface snatching gnats and mostysitos destined for my bedroom. The local dog rustles in the border deeper and deeper in to the shade, annoyed only by jumping critters small and irritating. I’m listening to some track I should now the name of but as usual I can’t recall. Its typical chilled hotel/spa music. Restful almost mournful … but thats the mood I’m in …. I truly am melancholy, tears well in my eyes and home sickness is upon me again, weather its the fact that it is the beginning of spring at home which I look forward to every year. Knowing that the cold is on the way out…. or more likely the realization that I haven’t seen my boys for over six months, family and fiends too! I see snippets of information from Facebook, have the odd chat with James on the phone or Skype he fills me in with Cams movements but I always man up and talk about work, shying away from my true feelings knowing that I couldn’t hold it together and turn in to a sniveling wreak. I want to react to all information but don’t seem too! Emma’s post about little Elliot filled my heart but I didn’t want to react with a comment, I wanted to see them, give them a squeeze, you can’t do that on the internet. Wish my sister Linda a great holiday. Tim, Monica and Ethan on theirs too but with a visit not a post. This is the sacafice I endure to fulfill our dream of a gap year away from the norm. Away from everything and everyone I love and at this moment I don’t think I am going to manage it.

Time to pull myself together….. Throw that bloody CD in the lake!!!!!  “Take me home country roads” & “Yesterday” on violin. I knew I could remember the tracks & know wonder I feel a bit down.

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On my last post I left you with my thoughts of the Cambodians plight and their cheery  nature. The organized tour ended in Saigon, Vietnam. Sally and I are left again to our own planning. It was good to be with a group and a good group of new friends at that, but selfishly I like doing things our way and at our pace. Which I might add is getting ever slower. Although having some-else take care of the travel arrangements has been good. The war museum in Saigon stirred the emotions again but not with the same shock that Cambodia did. I think it was because I knew a little of what happened. It still doesn’t excuse the barbarity that took place. Seeing it from the Vietnamese angle was good, a sort of reverse propaganda psychology. The Vietnamese seem a little harsher than your average Asian. Fast economic growth from the west has stirred the communist working “man”(Woman) keep it pc!) on the streets too quickly gather the all the novelties of modern life around them. Even in the hills we see wooden houses, some still with grass/ reed roofs. But most with a satellite or two pointing at the local soaps. I shouldn’t generalise. Some I am sure still live in a way that their forbears used too. Before war and politics. In the hills around the border of Laos our guide that we took from Na Trang to Hoi An along the Ho Chi Minh trail took great relish in telling us about an area of Laos that is now Vietnam. How much better of the people are now. If I am honest when you looked at the people, they had a disinterested way about them, not caring who was supposedly leading them. They life is about producing enough food for their family and that is about where it stops! Doing the Ho Chi Minh Trail was fun. Normally done on a motorbike (Called the easy rider tour). They took one look at Sally’s wash bag and jewelry  and told us we need a big seven seater car!  It lasted four days, staying in very basic accommodation. Day three arrived and Sally and I were both aware of the hard sell our guide had been giving us about extending the trip with him as guide. No way! He got all too pally-pally, Sally his new sister and me his brother. We couldn’t wait to be rid of him so as soon as we got to Hoi An we got out at the nearest 5* hotel knowing he wouldn’t follow. A tip for future traveling on tours, “Do Not let your guide think they is more mileage in your wallet” Having said all that we did see an awful lot of  Vietnam from the cities to the wildest countryside.

somethings still working from the war

somethings still working from the war

Lake Lac AM

Lake Lac AM

Lac lake PM

Lac lake PM

Cooling off. Could say "Chillin"

Cooling off. Could say “Chillin”

Ho Chi Min trail

Ho Chi Minh trail

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At last "some work" Just enough to stop me feeling lazzzzzzzy...

At last “some work” Just enough to stop me feeling lazzzzzzzy…

A great week enjoying the sun in a great little city, fun in the local bars, fun around the market streets, fun on the day boats. Just fun relaxing. After long deliberations we decided against going on to Hanoi, namely Ha Long bay for the cruise on a Chinese Junk, we felt after hearing stories, it would be very commercialised.

Lantern bridge at Hoi An

Lantern bridge at Hoi An

The best sea food!! Cooked on the beach to order yum-yum

The best sea food!! Cooked on the beach to order yum-yum

Hoi An & Sallyanne

Hoi An & Sallyanne

So…

Thailand again….

P. S.     About Vietnam. They need to teach themselves about litter. I have never seen so much!

Another 30 day visa. Lets use it! First in the footsteps of my son, a flight to Chiang Mai and on to the Golden Triangle. Where Thailand, Laos and Myanmar meet. Natural boundaries to countries hued by the mighty Mekong river and the mountainous ranges. Still man has his two pennyworth along the Thai/ Burma boarder, razor-wire strewn among the impenetrable  bamboo. On a lighter note I got to go to Burma even if it was the briefest of visits. Sally and I had a car, and while traveling along the mountain ridge came upon two border guards on Thai and one Burmese at a check point- we had a chat as you do. Nice guys. Explaining to them that I would love to go to Manyamar but have no visa. A really friendly gesture from them both…… GO… we won’t look or shoot you…so I did! ….for all of about minute. Sally as official photographer.

Short but sweet! Burma!!

Short but sweet! Burma!!

Sally was left as a deposit as I went to Burma. "She doesn't look to bothered"

Sally was left as a deposit as I went to Burma.
“She doesn’t look to bothered”

Golden triangle

Golden triangle

On our way to the Golden Triangle we stopped off for 5 days at Chiang Dao about half way between Chiang Mai & C-Rai, A little hut in the shadow of the high peaks mount Dao and the National park. A fabulous place to see wildlife, birds and flora…so peaceful! Its the first place that I have seen that If I was inclined (but I am not) to build a retreat abroad to escape to, I even know which plot I want!!  Sally and I meet some more new friends in the Blair’s. Thanks to a mutual passion for birding Cameron and Mark (son and father)  invited me to see a lot more of Chiang Dao than I ever expected. On to Chiang Rai and another lucky find with our accommodation. Just South of the town stayed in a little purpose built chalet, one of about 10 all empty except us. A couple and their mother ran it, a retirement project. They were so nice and friendly. Lent me his car to go to the local restaurant when I had returned my hire car, dropped us to the airport when we left, hung out and got in our washing while we were site-seeing, drew maps for so we wouldn’t get lost and pretty much told us everything we should and shouldn’t do. All this for 500 bht a night (10 quid). The best thing around Chiang Rai is the White Temple, an un finished temple. It will not be complete until about 2070 when the artist monk  who’s creation it is will be 90 odd.

I will let some pictures conjure the next few words.

Dao

Dao

From the top

From the top

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Wild Pointsettia

Wild Pointsettia

Jay, "how about they for a passion flower"

Jay,
“How about that for a passion flower”

The White Temple, Chiang Rai.

The White Temple, Chiang Rai.

White Temple entrance

White Temple entrance (Wat Rong Khun)

I little bit weird

A little bit weird

Truly Inspirational

Truly Inspirational

Our hut (nest) at Chiang Dao, Nest 2

Our hut (nest) at Chiang Dao, Nest 2

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Pictures speak a thousand words and I have about 1000 pictures of Thailand, So who wants to come round our house (when we have one) for a very long conversation!!!………….. Thailand to be continued.

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“X-plore”

To travel from Bangkok to Cambodia and then Vietnam is as easy as getting on a bus. BUT….. It helps if you know what bus, which stop, how much, how long and where you actually want to get off. All this information is easily available on the internet, and internet is good in Bangkok, so no problem. Oh…., don’t forget to research the places to visit and arrange the transfers to those sites. Oh…. and the hotels. OR…. book that tour that does it all for you. How lazy am I. I have all the time in the world and I still get a man to do it for me. Justify it by telling myself its safer or something like that! Still I am glad we did, as getting the visas for Cambodia and Vietnam was a bit of a chore. Easy enough once we worked out the metro systems in the city.

Our Route

Our Route

Staying at B U Place has been great, a really friendly staffed hotel/apartment.

5th floor pool at B U Place

5th floor pool at B U Place

Time to move on and join the Explore tour the other side of town. The group, of mixed ages and sexes, fourteen in all including us. Like minded as always. Explore tours have a way of getting you to bond straight away with members of the group. Generally its feet first and extreme. This tour was no different. 5.45 am meet for a 15 minute breaky. Taxi to the station by 6.15am and board the early 3rd class train to Poipet on the boarder of Cambodia. Third class is about a basic as basic can be. The carriages are at the back of the train so wearing white is not a good idea as the open windows act as the air conditioning units and dust traps, street vendors wander up and down occasionally selling pretty undesirable looking food and drink. The trains stop frequently  for no apparent reason, we can only guess. Maybe a stop light or cow on the line, but later observation I spotted on of the numerous guards wandering back from changing the points.

The back door!!!

The back door!!!

3rd class inside a outside.

3rd class inside a outside.

Trying to stay positive and focused!!

Trying to stay positive and focused!!

The train took us to Poipot on the border of Thailand and Cambodia wher Explore laid on luxury transport to the actual crossing!!!

Transport to the boarder. "Explore doing it in style again."

Transport to the boarder.
“Explore doing it in style again.”

It could of been worse.

Open air 'Dolmus"

Open air ‘Dolmus” in Phnom Penh

Siem Reap is the city of temples, the gateway back in time to the ancient Kingdom of Cambodia. It is very evident that Cambodia is a very poor country relying heavily on one good crop of rice to see them through the year. Not surprisingly Siem Reap has developed a large tourist industry around the area, with such a wealth of historical buildings to cash in on it makes perfect sense. Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom and the famous jungle temple of Ta Prohm. The five spires of the main temple of Angkor Wat are known the world over. The trees clinging to the sides of Ta Prohm are in fact supporting many of the walls and tombs, this is the most inspiring of the Angkor sites, one certainly not to miss even for the most basic of photographers. Since the digital world I shudder to think how many images are floating around our cyber earth. Built in the 12th century, this temple, along with Bayon and Baphuon, is the essence of Khmer architecture. Certainly on a par with the Pharos of Egypt. The effort that went into erecting such magnificent structures is quite immeasurable. Boundless energy expended by the people of Cambodia all those years ago doesn’t seem to be reflected in the way they live today. A thousand chosen few to live within the boundary of the Wat and countless thousands always to the outside. There to remain unthanked, unrewarded.

Ankgor Wat

Ankgor Wat

Two more priceless relics.

Two more priceless relics.

No sign of Lara

No sign of Lara

Intricate carvings depict the stories from the past.

Intricate carvings depict the stories from the past.

Moving away from the ancient areas. Down along side the large lake Tonle Sap towards the capital Phnom Penh. A night in Battambang with yet another train ride. This one just for fun.

The Bamboo Train with Steye and Sue

The Bamboo Train with Steye and Sue

All the way to Phnom Penh if you want. I think not.

All the way to Phnom Penh if you want. I think not.

The bus journey is difficult to explain. The travel agents sell it as an experience to be enjoyed. The reality is not so easy to endure. Its painfully slow which eventually makes it slightly tedious. I found myself looking at the misery in the small cramped dwellings rather than the magic. The people in Asia and especially Cambodia are so happy and content, I wonder why as we make our way towards Phnom Penh. I now put it all down to the laughing Budda!

Foreign Correspondence Club,

Foreign Correspondence Club,

I knew once we got to Phnom Penh we would be in for a very emotional time but nothing could prepare me for the sorrow of the killing fields. Everyone should either visit if you are fortunate enough or at least read an article or two about what went one with the Khmer Rouge. The Khmer Rouge regime arrested and eventually executed almost everyone suspected of connections with the former government or with foreign governments, as well as professionals and intellectuals. Vietnamese, Thai’s, Cambodians and the Buddhist Monks were the targets of persecution. As a result, Pol Pot is often referred to as the “Hitler of Cambodia a genocidal tyrant.” One quote that is embedded in my mind is… ” To kill you is no gain, to lose you no loss”…. How insignificant life can become….. And as Forrest Gump says “Thats all I’m going to say about that.”.

This picture was hard to take and impossible to comprehend.

Inside the Stupor, the skulls of just a few of remains recovered from the mass graves. A memorial to the thousands that died.

Inside the Stupa, the skulls of just a few of the remains recovered from the mass graves. A memorial to the thousands that died.

Just about sorting out the Khmer Rouge in my head and now we are in Vietnam trying to understand what went on with the Viet Cong.

A trip to the Mekong Delta should help clear our heads. We sorted out our own trip as Explore has it as an optional extra and Chung our Vietnamese guide was a bit too keen to sign us up. We renamed him Cher-Ching as his tour was $60/head and we got the same or very similar for $10/head. Cher-Ching wasn’t happy! We were. The delta is much as you might image, many rivers and river-lets converge around islets. A boat took us around the islands sampling food, coconut sweet factory and honey bee tea. I also got my hands on a very big Python.

Don' worry, I'm "still chillin"

Don’ worry, I’m
“still chillin”

Kids, don't try this at home!

Kids, don’t try this at home!

River people

River people and a few tourists

Monty

Monty

My Miss Sally Saigon off to the sweetie shop.

My Miss Sally Saigon off to the sweetie shop.

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Sunsets and Waterfalls

Arriving in Phuket, Thailand not really what to expect. All the same so far, a busy little airport with international and domestic flights converging at an all to small exit. Ushered by security staff to leave but meet by more than a few taxi drivers trying to convince you that you should end up in their car so they can whisk you away from the turmoil. We had pre-booked a airport motel within 600 metres of the airport but it still required that taxi. Still now we could clear our heads and plan. A good nights sleep followed by some breakfast helped us. We walked back the short distance to the airport and hired a new car for just twenty quid a day. It came with a map so off we set, South and this is where we ended up.

Layan Beach, Phuket

Layan Beach, Phuket

Sunsets and waterfalls seem to go hand in hand with things to see while on holiday. Just as well I like both. We have seen that many now. Most walks end up at a waterfall and most days at the beach end with another sunset. Making them synonymous photos for the albums. Sunsets always make think of a John ( a man we meet on a touring holiday a few years ago), without fail he would always say “Goodbye Wednesday” or “Thursday” etc. Every night…Now I smile when I see a sunset, and think of him somewhere saying it.

"Good-bye Tuesday"

“Good-bye Tuesday”

At the end of walk toKathu Waterfalls

At the end of walk to
Kathu Waterfalls

When we booked the flights to Phuket from Cairns, Australia, it was a destination I would have never listed before we left. I thought  that it was over commercialised, definitely the seedy area in Thailand. –Wrong.– Although Patong and the beach is really busy the surrounding areas are nice. Its good to go into really busy towns but its always good to get somewhere quiet afterwards. Glad we hired a car, buy far the easiest way for us to see the Island and they drive on the proper side of the road. Where we stayed the car was a must ,as, apart from the beach bar and a restaurant or two there were no shops within walking distance. Our accommodation is terrific, a beautiful small high level bungalow (can you have a high bungalow? ) set in a small wooded area.

Patong Beach

Patong Beach

Layan Beach on a busy day!

Layan Beach on a busy day!

Crazy night in Patong... Soooo many people.

Crazy night in Patong… Soooo many people.

Our not so low bungalow

Our not so low bungalow

The days we are spending in Phuket are so relaxing. Planning or time in Asia I soon realise that I hadn’t done as much homework as I should have. Typically leaving every thing to the last minute. The visa for Vietnam will take time and will require a visit to the Embassy in Bangkok. The tour we want starts on the 6th February. So, off to Bangkok sooner than we would of liked. Looking on the net, flights seemed bit expensive so we drove to the airport without booking anything having arranged with Kai and Noi that we could stay another night if needed.

"Noi

We already knew there was a ticket office at the domestic airport and just hoped there would be a flight available. There was. With a couple of hours to kill we booked some accommodation in Bangkok, a small apartment in a older hotel. I’m liking this, more adventure, more uncertainty and then when we arrived in Bangkok it just got better. The hotel is situated in the middle of an area of two story buildings all the small working businesses. Loads of street food vendors line the small narrow roads. Food is so cheap. Sally and I can both have a chicken pad thai and get change out of a pound. The end of most streets there seems to be a market selling the most unusual fruit, veg, fish and meat. Keep an open mind and palette, trying as many things as we dare. Getting a photo of some things is hard and the language barrier doesn’t help. They seem to want to sell you a kilo of everything even though it is cheap you don’t want a kilos worth of an unexperienced taste.

Pad Thai

Pad Thai

Squid on a stick

Squid on a stick

Just a few Noodles!!

Just a few Noodles!!

Ginger

Ginger

Guess the veg

Guess the veg

Rambutan, Mangosteen andlittle sweet Bananas

Rambutan, Mangosteen and
little sweet Bananas

Eggactly what I thought!

Eggactly what I thought!

Bright pink bad egg. One to try if you visit Bangkok.Actually tasted alright.

Bright pink bad egg. One to try if you visit Bangkok.
Actually tasted alright.

We have done loads of the touristy things too, like long-tail boat along the Chao Phraya River to Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn). Gone to Lumphini Park and the weekend market at Chatuchak. Even ventured down Soi Cowboy off the Sukhumvit Road. We have used all the various ways to get about the city. They have an underground called the MRT. An overground sky rail called the BTS. Taxis, buses and off course the Tuk-tuks. All of which run seamlessly and at a fraction of the cost. One other way to get into the centre of the city is by canal bus which is not for the faint hearted. A large long speed boat that carries about 100 people. It stops only momentarily at jetties, just and I mean just enough time for people to exit and enter, then off again at full speed. At some points I would say we reached 25knots in a passage of water on more than 40ft wide, with bends. It has plastic side-curtains that you lift with a bit of string and a pulley. This stops the contents of the cannel entering the boat and soaking you. I am sure I do not need to elaborate on that!!

Tuk-tuk

Tuk-tuk

Wat Phrakaew

Wat Phrakaew

Wat Arun

Wat Arun

Quick! pull up that Curtain!!

Quick! pull up that Curtain!!

The guys with orange vests are Taxi mopeds.This one carrying 3 kids to school. Breakfast 'n' all

The guys with orange vests are Taxi mopeds.
This one carrying 3 kids to school. Breakfast ‘n’ all

Of all cities I have visited I like Bangkok. It has an originality about it that other cities seem to have lost until that is, you get into a modern shopping malls and there they are all the most boring shops and restaurants in the world brain washing the general public into submission, trying to convince us we need them and life just wouldn’t be the same without their help. It is so sad to see young Thai’s spending what they can ill afford on junk. Believe me the multi nationals don’t want any originality not until they have their $ driving it…

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Retrospective Blog.

White Haven Beach, Whitsundays

White Haven Beach, Whitsundays

Back on the train again, this time to Airlie Beach the home of the Whitsunday Islands, approximately seventy-five of them in all. Mostly of which are small uninhabited atolls with a few much larger inhabited groups. They make up the  southern tip of the Great Barrier Reef which extends almost 2000km North. We arrived by bus with nowhere to stay. Think lucky and I find you generally are. “One apartment/room left in Sunlit Waters, “Would you like me to give him a ring” Said the very helpful lady in an information centre. “Ok”, we replied.  Looking around at the pamphlets, etc. I thought to myself this is going to be pricey but keep thinking lucky and you no what, we were. You judge, $100/night, small group of apartments privately owned.

$100 View

$100 View

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Not only was it so good, but Stuart the owner arranged my diving trip for me. And to the unbelievable White Haven Beach made up of 90+% of silica sand & ground up quartz, “so white.” Then guided us to stay for two nights at Long Island, and held a room for us for our return. He also offered us a lift back to Proserpine  if we needed it, as the bus had a job finding us.

Diving "The Reef"

Diving “The Reef”

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The new "Big Blue"

The new “Big Blue”

Me

Me

That woman

And that woman

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Just another beautiful view

Just another beautiful view

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The luck, or at least the weather seems to be wearing thin. “ITS P***ING DOWN” and not much chance of it clearing up. We have arrived in Cairns with the along awaited rainy season. Everybody seems very happy except Sally and me. A small glimmer of sunlight just now and then. Time enough to crack off a few snaps for the ever increasing photo album (up to about 20gb worth so far) and yes I will expect most of you to sit through the slide show when we eventually return).

Wet stuff!!!!

Wet stuff!!!!

We hired a car and drove around in the rain, went to Port Douglas and stayed in a pub on the hill as we didn’t want to stay in the flood plain resorts. There were radio warnings for heavy flooding and we could see why!! I soon realised that one thing wasn’t going to happen unless we were willing to sit out the bad weather and god only know’s how long that would be. My dive on the outer reefs…… Without that it seemed little point in hanging around, so we made the decision to book an onward flight. Thailand here we come. Booked it at 8pm, caught it at 10am the following morning. Gone are the days of booking our holidays a year in  advance eh!  We did however see an awful lot of the the East coast of Australia and as we used train and car to get around I can honestly say It is an enormous Place, country even continent…. I know we missed things. Places perhaps we shouldn’t have missed. But we have also seen things that many Australians haven’t had a chance to see and may never get that chance. I feel very lucky to have this opportunity.

Australia, You didn't manage to kill us!!

Australia,
You didn’t manage to kill us!!

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“Wait-a-while” Longer

6 weeks since my last post and we are on a the train from Proserpine (Airlie Beach) to Cairns, Queensland. The journey is 12hrs long. So no excuses, time to write.

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We flew from Perth to Sydney. Sally was still none the wiser about the surprise installed for her at the airport. To be honest everyone back home had done such good job at keeping the facts hidden, I was even wondering if he would be there. Roger (Daddy) tapped Sally on the shoulder as she was trying to grapple with an airport trolly. The scream was deafening, all but a few turned their heads. She really had no idea folks, thank you. Rog did try to let her know, telling her he had booked his flight, quickly realising his mistake we diverted the conversation into an orienteering event, Phew defused! Then leaving his bank statement on view with the payment for his flight prominent. Glad she’s not nosey.

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Off to stay with our very own Auntie Val in Belrose, Sydney. Most of the time still chillin, with a sprinkling of busyness for me organising Sally’s Big Day. For those of you reading this that didn’t know she turned fifty in December. “I know its hard to believe.” And no she didn’t force me to write that. We had a party for her at Val’s. Unsure what I could buy her. Luggage space at a premium. I decided to give her a day of pampering. Up early and off to Warringa mall where I had appointments booked for her. First a Pedicure, then Manicure, and the off to get her Hair done. Something to wear and back home for the party. Party!! Then the next day a day-out in Manly, staying the night at the Manly Pacific Hotel. Champagne, roof top pool and dinner out.

Lets get pampered

Lets get pampered

Lucy made the cake.

Lucy made the cake.

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The Manley Pacific Hotel

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Living Xmas tree near the Rocks, Sydney

Now for Christmas and the New Year! Oh and still we need to see more of Aus. Before and after Sally’s birthday we had two road trips in Auntie Val’s camper van. Both times travelling South of Sydney to see Claire (A friend from Shoreham who moved out about 25 years ago). First trip to see her at Merimbula near where she lives and the second time to spend time with her on her vacation at a place called Bendalong. Its a small peninsula with at least five beaches to choose from, walking tracks and bush. I loved it.

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Flat rock beach

Time around Val’s was very homely, spending time with Lucy, Danny and their daughters, walking the bush with Rog, helping Val out at the studio and doing day trips. Lucy and Danny work at the Opera house. Danny the artistic director and Lucy a principle dancer both for the Australian Ballet Company. We saw Lucy do a class with Danny on the stage. Then a bit of a tour around. On Christmas eve we went to Bundeena to Marcel and Victoria’s (Danny’s brother). Bundeena is in a National park and is remote although very close to the city of Sydney. Christmas  day was wet and cold just like home, arrgh! No bar-b-cue on the beach for us. We spent it inside at Val’s sisters house. Janet and Rohan certainly put a spread on.

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The 28th December, decided to buy a rail ticket to Cairns. Called the East Coast Discovery Pass. It allows us to hop-on and off where ever we like and covers bus services as well. Two conditions, travel in one direction only and book your seat. Pretty neat!  So from Sydney we took a train to Casino and then a bus to Beenliegh via Byron Bay and Surfers Paradise. An old dancing friend of Barbie’s, Beth lives in South Rochdale, Brisbane. We were here for New Year sharing Beth’s hospitality and pool with her daughter and two granddaughters.

Surfers Paradise to me, conjured up thoughts of a sleepy little town with a long sandy beach, a few bars and couple of life guards. Maybe a palm tree or too! How wrong was I. It was like Miami, Florida. Huge, thousands of people. So glad we never booked accommodation there.

While in Brisbane we did however go to Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary this is where Sally’s mum, Barbie was photographed holding a Koala and Sally carries that photo with her. She also now carries a photo of her holding a Koala too! Dream come true for Sal xx. We also went to another sanctuary called Currumbin Park. Beth’s granddaughter Taylor, was keen to take us there, especially me as it has a darker side to it. In the form of a hi-wire course not for the faint hearted. The dark side being the Black Run. Something you graduate too having worn yourself out throughly on the green course then red course, each getting harder and much higher. I of course, in an earlier conversation with Taylor had told about high trees I had climbed and deep oceans I had dived and that if we went to Currumbin I would happily do the black run with her. Teach me to keep my mouth shut. “Well I have never ached so much!!” But I am still here to tell the tale.

"Lone Pine" Sally and Teresa.

“Lone Pine” Sally and Teresa.

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In to the dark side!!

Having done Tarronga Zoo in Sydney and the Koala parks we couldn’t miss Australia Zoo at Beerwah, North of Brisbane. This was home of the late Steve Irwin, Crocodile Hunter and conservationist. Now run by his family. The show Steve once did is now done with his wife, Bindi(14) and Robert(10). An amazing zoo and attraction for Australia.

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On to Noosa, in fact KinKin. To Paul and June’s more friends from years past. A weekend extended itself to a week with an yet another fabulous trip. To Fraser Island this time. This island is the largest sand island in the world. Only accessible by four-wheel drive vehicle. The land cruiser tour, a bumpy one at that was “such fun” a phrase taken from the t.v series “Miranda” When the bumping stopped the camping started. A two man tent on a slope “such fun” It was worth it. I honestly would recommend it. The clear freshwater lakes and creeks are so clean. I guess its also the largest sand filter in the world. The water tasted better than any bottled. Most of the driving is done on the beach, seventy mile long. Rainbow beach at one end and the Champagne rock pools at the other. These pools have large waves breaking into them, just like a massive saltwater jacuzzi. “Such fun.”

Paul and June at Montville.

Paul and June at Montville.

Fraser Island

Fraser Island

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What a lot of sand

Wild Dingo

Wild Dingo

The Champagne Pools

The Champagne Pools

"SUCH FUN"

“SUCH FUN”

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“Wait A-while”

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Drink wine and be happy.

Drink more wine and be happier. Only in WA the land of long beaches, white sand and blue sky could our friends make our holiday destination totally dedicated to fun, eating fine food, finer wines and “Yes” we are ‘still chillin”.

Nice to get to a destination where you know you can put your feet up and relax. We really spent the first week doing nothing even though our hosts are hard at work.

The Australian wine industry is the world’s fourth largest exporter of wine with approximately 750 million litres a year to the international export market with only about 40% of production consumed domestically and Micky, Sharon, Sally, I and a few friends tried desperately to get that up to 50%. Micky suggested we visit wineries when we took a few days down in the Margret River area South of Perth, even brought me a map showing them all. Then proceeded to mark all but a few with highlighter pen so we wouldn’t miss any.

Tree top walk in Kings Park, Perth

Tree top walk in Kings Park, Perth

Kings Park is a real highlight of Perth. Its interesting, lots to see and do. It hosts all manner of things, flora n’ fauna walks, open air concerts, memorials, exercise stations, and incredible views of the water ways around the Swan River. Even a free shuttle service to the city. The botanical garden are as good as I’ve seen anywhere, they are very keen on their indigenous plants. So many plants that I have no idea what they are. Makes me realise what little knowledge I have about my subject!

We looked and looked but this is the only one we have seen

We looked and looked but this is the only one we have seen

Hillary's

Hillary’s Boat and Yacht Yard

What a fabulous marina. Its got just about everything you can imagine. Very like Port Solent and Gunn Wharf all rolled into one but with sunshine and a beach. Shops and restaurants by the dozens, I wouldn’t have been surprised if it had a sail through Mac Donald’s.

Freemantle

Freemantle

Wine with everything!!!

Wine with everything!!!

Bush-tucker tour.

Bush-tucker tour.

Bush-tucker picnic.

Bush-tucker picnic.

Canoeing amongst Paper bark tea-tree.

Canoeing amongst Paper bark tea-tree.

Our trip down to the Margret River region made possible by the generosity Mark and Lisa (friends of Micky and Sharon’s) who lent us their car. “Fair-dinkum”.  The Bush-tucker tour we did was from the beach up the Margret River named after “You guessed it” Margeret. In 1834 she was the intended spouse of John Bussell the land owner of the area. He promised to name the river after her if she came to Australia to be with him. He was a bit hasty in the naming as she never did come, or marry him. “Women eh”

We paddled up stream through swampy areas into large open water tasting weeds on the way. Hmm. Went ashore and walked to a cave where we saw wild bees and more edible bush weeds. At the cave I crawled through some very small tunnels and got Muddy! I don’t Do Muddy!! Yuck. After that I swam in Margret’s River. Lunch served in the bush. Kangaroo, Bush Turkey and Crocodile  sandwiches along with of course for dessert a Witchetty Grub.

Bussleton Jetty, 2 km long with a underwater observatory at the end.

Bussleton Jetty, 2 km long with a underwater observatory at the end.
Eagle Bay

Eagle Bay

Eagle Bay footless!!

Eagle Bay footless!!

We visited lots of beaches on the way, Eagle bay and Meelup beach were stunning places very quiet and un-spoilt. We drove back via the back roads until we reached Busselton again. Returning from our Margret River holiday, a holiday within our holiday.  Alyssa and her friend Kerry (more friends of Micky and Sharon’s) have been living in WA for 20 years and celebrated it with a party at Murray and Alyssa’s house in Freemantle. The theme was Bubbles and Bling. As you can see from the photo below Sally certainly had the bling! I had the baubles and didn’t take it as seriously as I might have. A great night was had by all. Thanks for including us guys!!

You might wonder why I called this post “Wait a-while”. Its not because I have been lazy and it has taken forever for me to post this blog. Lets see what answers you can come up with?

Bubbles and Bling Party

Bubbles and Bling Party

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“Chilled”

We sure are chilled….. Hence the rather long and late post about the last part of our trip around New Zealand. Just imagine its the end of October and all will be fine………

28th October Cameron’s Birthday, seems odd not to see him or any family. We are a long way from home. I guess this is what home sickness feels like, a little bit empty, something missing, vulnerable. The thought that it is only a long way in miles, not time clears my head. Only about one week left as we leave Moeraki’s beach still questioning the boulders in my brain. No real plans in front of us except that we will spend a night of real comfort in a hotel for my birthday. Sally frantically looks through the brochures we have for the area in front of us with a real gusto and a happy little glint in her eye. The area is Canterbury, very like a vastly expanded England I know, rolling hills like the downs and flats leading to the sea. But with the back drop of the Southern Alps, hardly any roads, few houses and even fewer people makes it appear totally refreshing, clean. Untouched. Up into the hills we drive following a pioneer trail. Off the tarmac and on to gravel roads winding all over the place. We are reassured when we find the next trail sign. So many of the side roads in New Zealand just lead to a house or farm.

Jurassic Park!

Slowing down near a workshop to gawp at a man unloading what seemed to be a impressive bit of carpentry, he gave a cheery smile and a wave that beckoned us in to his yard. A German man and his wife that have been living and working in NZ for 20+ years invited us for tea. Sally and I much admired the wood fired hot tubs that he has been designing and crafting. On our return you may just see the first import in to the UK.

Wood Fired Hot Tub

A couple of nights at Trotters Gorge and Peel forest, stunning scenery  and quiet campsites. I just love it.

Trotters Gorge

Soaking up the last of the sun

Peel Forest

Flower!!!!!

Time for my birthday and an indulgence in accommodation: A bath and a full size bed, bliss! We didn’t bang our head once in the hotel. I just can’t think why.

Burfday boy and the Mrs

Driving on from Hanmar Springs it wasn’t until we reached Rangiora that we saw the first signs of the earthquake damage around Christchurch. We didn’t know what to expect and felt quite uneasy about seeing people’s misfortune. As it was we should have realised that by now most people were getting on with they lives and come what may they are going to make the best of it. Individuals told us of the frustrations mainly with the authorities and Insurance companies. No change there then!! The Restart Project that Sally has shown in her montage in the last post shows how optimistic traders are. The centre its self is one large building site with little access.

The only mishap we had with the camper van was at St Annes Reserve. Britz were great. Had a man with a van with us in under half an hour.

Steering lock jammed. Darn it!

On reflection perhaps we shouldn’t of parked  like that!!

“Lets Pack Toto”!!! …..Its off to the wonderful world of …OZ!!

Was this really all in the van?

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Christchurch restart project.

https://www.icloud.com/journal/#9;CAEQARoQ2Q-3utFgTTw40u6-QnRX7g;08081373-9DD5-41BA-970C-A2175BC77F28

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Brighton n’ Rock.

We couldn’t have travelled 19000km and just driven through Brighton. Sally wanted to stay and who was I to pass up an opportunity of a weekend in Brighton (eye-eye lads a dirty one me thinks). Alas it was a Wednesday! We did stay however, in a colourful campsite on the edge of town. Brighton as you will see is not a very large place, in fact to say it was on the edge of town is slightly misleading, conjures up the wrong impression. Gives thoughts of grandeur.  A campsite, a general store, a school, a fish & chip shop, a club (not one the kids to“get down” in) and a  beach. But what a beach!!

Thats pretty much it.



Brighton was a good place to stay, close to Dunedin and the Otago Peninsula. We had a good look around the city and botanic gardens and took a very windy, winedee drive to the  Peninsula to see the Northern Royal Albatrosses. The only place you can see them, according to the man at the end who asked me for $40 per person, for the privilege. Needless to say,  I wasn’t about to do that!  Fortunately Albatrosses are birds and luckily for me, flew over us a couple of times. They really are huge.

We have been away from England for a couple of months now and my head is now vacant of nearly all the normal everyday thoughts. ie; When is the mot due on the car. Does it even have one, must check? That sort of thing. Interesting, they seem to be being replaced by more inquiring thoughts almost educational thoughts.

Travelling around not just this trip but all of the holidays we have had I always look at rocks, stones, cliffs even mountains and realise I know very little about them. If I could (and maybe I will) I would like to know much more about them than I do. I sort of always say to myself that it was to do with pressure and age, that’s what caused them to be like that, but I know its far more than that really. What makes coal, coal (plants but). Quartz, Quartz. Granite, granite. Limestone, limestone. And what the bloody heck made the Moeraki Boulders if it wasn’t aliens.

Is it a ball?

Is it an alien?

Leap of faith

Forty four save all!

“Still Chillin”

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No Doubt!

A couple of days in Invercargill, a couple in Bluff. The sun shone occasionally,  the wind blew lots and lots and the temperature dropped but we are at the Southern tip of NZ. After all its only another 5000km to the South Pole. We had a good trek around Bluff headland overlooking the coast to Stewart Island, 35km would us got us their but the crossing on the ferry across a very, very rough straight was all the encouragement we needed to keep us firmly on the ground.  Time enough to sort out a few snaps for your amusement.

New Zealanders get on with it, they don’t make a big song and dance over everything unlike the red-taped life we seem to insist on back in the UK. Just imagine these!!!!!!

Here about a 10km section of road to Wanui Falls had had dozens of land slips on the edge of the road. But still never closed it.

Moving house! Lock, stock and barrel. Try this in the middle of Worthing!

Give Way. To oncoming traffic “Too bloody right.”

Nearly all bus stops and public loo’s are painted, works of art.

Invercargill is a typical Sottish town, as the name suggests. Laid out with a greenbelt through the middle, a large park, part of which is formal. Neat orderly street plan, a clock and a library to be proud off. Very Victorian! We loved it. Mind you I do feel that they may have imported a few red tape bureaucratic safety officers to visit some towns before us.

This was a noted attraction in the town with free public access and has stood here since 1888 and now it has deemed to be unsafe as have many buildings in NZ since the earthquake in Christchurch.

Earthquakes are a real and tragic threat which New Zealanders have had, and still do live with everyday, but it seems odd to close buildings which have stood for so long because they might collapse and injure if a quake struck them. It clearly will not be practical or economic to earthquake proof them for future use without ruining there appearance. Now its closed what will become of it? Makes me wonder if these sort of actions by local or national governments are driven by real concern of people or is there money to be made?? Thats my rant over with and on a lighter note.

Who would of thought that Sally would drag me along to a Truck Parade! (Quite amazed since we saw this line up we have seen a few of them on the road.)

The forecast for Tuesday is good so we took the plunge again and brought the tickets for an overnight trip to Doubtful Sound in Fiordland. Sales, try to convince us that it won’t matter if it rains as it adds to the magic of this awe inspiring area. The water falls will be spectacular with rain. Sally and I aren’t sure? We want sun so we can see the mountain tops. Not rain, we’ve seen enough water falls!! Springett luck holds! The morning is fine and reasonably still. The Sound is truly magical, steep sided mountains rise from dark brackish waters of the fiord clad in a layer of rainforest up to about 700m where the snow tipped rocky crags take over.

Sheer faces of twisted rock, bare slopes where tree avalanches have wiped the slate clean for another 70 years. We headed West to the very entrance of the Sound. Out to the Roaring Forties where the sea came alive with the wind and the wildlife. We saw a colony of Fur Seals and the rare Crested Yellow Penguin, Kea and Kaka the rainforest parrots.

I kayaked for about 2km in Crooked Arm a fiord, off Doubtful.

The Navigator, our berth for the overnight cruise was a taste or luxury that we have been missing. On a par with the Orient Express I imagine. The morning came early aboard the ship but with it came some rain. Someone must of ordered it as it gave us the mysterious wonder of the fiordland too.

“Still Chillin”

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