Month: January 2018

591. Sunday 28th January 2018. Commonwealth Games Training, Australia Day and Fish n Chips beside the Broadwater…

Wednesday 24th January

Instead of riding the bike along The Broadwater at 5.30 am I walked twice around our village. The walk through our own park beside Biggera Creek is very relaxing and picturesque.

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Our park with Biggera Creek and the beginnings of the canal system and high rise buildings at Lands End.

The reason why I walked instead of taking a longer bike ride is because I had an Open Day Training Session as a driver for the Commonwealth Games at 9am.

The training session today was similar to last week. However instead of following a turn by turn guide to various sporting locations we “buddied” up and chose our own destination. Part of the “rules” was to use as far as possible the preferred routes laid down by the CG2018. The only other rule was to be back at the depot by 12 noon. Most of the locations were known to me but not my buddy. I chose to navigate so he could learn the routes, locations and planned parking, pickup, set-down and holding bays. The planned app which is to hold all  of our jobs for the day and to link via Android Auto to the vehicle and show all route maps is not yet up and running. Each vehicle is fitted with a Samsung Galaxy J3 mobile phone and the App is simply not working as it orta. I suppose there are still 10 weeks to the games opening to solve the problem. There are only 8 weeks remaining until we start collecting passengers from the airports. In the meantime we are learning the manual method. At the end of the session my “buddy” and I arranged another Open Day drive for next Monday.

Thursday 25th January

In the afternoon we set up the clubhouse for the Australia Day function tomorrow.

Friday 26th January – Australia Day

Originally we expected between 40 to 50 villagers would attend the FREE morning tea, luncheon, afternoon tea and a series of fun games complete with prizes. We ended up taking down the nomination form when numbers reached 84 as it is close to the capacity our clubhouse can cater for. Committee member Wayne took on the task of catering for the event including cooking damper. Wayne, Marie and Lynne spent most of the day working to cook up a storm in the small kitchen. We agreed to keep residents out of the kitchen by putting a screen across the doorway. It is only a small kitchen so workers do not need unnessesary people making it smaller. I offered to provide real coffee (well at least pod coffee which is 100% coffee) as an additional option to the Billy Tea or instant coffee. Some other villagers with similar pod machines as mine offered their machines to make several cups at a time. We were overwhelmed by the response and on the day made about 60 cups of coffee. The day was a total success, despite the heat, thanks to the efforts of our hard working social committee and Graham who is the glue which holds us all together. Much of the events were able to be held inside the clubhouse. Although suffering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Graham ran the event all day as MC ensuring there were as few delays as possible. He ran on adrenaline until the day concluded then went home to rest body and voice. All of us needed a good rest as well.

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Fun games on the bowling green.
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Ladies in waiting
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Welcome at the front door.
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I was going to wear a silly hat just like this one.
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Sisters Lynn and Marj.

Saturday 27th January

We have somebody jumping our perimeter fence and cutting a hose with a sharp knife, It does not sound like a giant problem but the person has been seen before and has usually run away by climbing the fence. Some residents are concerned as anybody who carries a sharp knife and is prepared to cut a hose could very well be prepared to use it if confronted. As well as reporting to the Police we will set up our own movement activated spy camera.

Sunday 28th January

It rained overnight and in the morning but the sun came along and managed to bully the clouds away leaving a glorious hot sunny day. As usual on days like this the beaches get populated. For a change we bought Fish n Chips from the Harbour Seafood Market    http://www.harbourseafoodmarket.com.au/   (worth a visit just to look at the range of fresh and frozen seafood) and drove to Broadwater Parklands, a wonderful park and beach and swimming enclosure and playgrounds and so many things to do with the perfect weather we have most days.

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Free enclosure.

The scaffolding work around the swimming complex and diving area is reaching new heights to be ready in time for the Commonwealth Games.

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Scaffolding and high rise seating at the swimming and diving venue.

Located beside the free swimming enclosure is Aquasplash   (https://aquasplash.com.au/ ) a fun filled swimming enclosure with inflated equipment to bounce on or off and into the water. The water temp today was 26°. Everybody was either looking for shade or looking to get into the water. It costs $16 for an adult ticket for 50 minutes of fun. Once each swimmer is equipped with a life jacket and the alarm goes off on the hour a mad dash of children, teenagers and adults rush into the water in a mass of splashing and shouting humanity.

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Aquasplash waiting for starters orders.

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Nearby is another seething mass of happy people enjoying The Big Wedgie   (https://thebigwedgie.com.au/ ) an inflatable set of three water slides.

Are big older – much older –  kids allowed on these rides?

I’m game!

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590. Sunday 21st January 2018. Notebook modifications, GC 2018 Training and a surf…

Monday 15th January

Last week I mentioned our planned Amtrak rail journey across the USA. I want to take my laptop to keep track of daily events, download photos and keep up to date on the internet. My Toshiba Satellite L500 Laptop has a Pentium Dual Core 2.20 Ghz CPU and a 240 Gb SSD memory and a 64 Bit processor with a 15” LCD screen and is fast enough for my needs. It weighs something like 3.5 Kg. It is simply too big and heavy to consider travelling on plane and train.

I do have a Toshiba Note Book, NB550D which has a 1 Ghz single core CPU, a 500 Gb memory, a 32 Bit processor and a  9” LCD screen.

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I bought this wonder when WOW Sight and Sound went broke a few years ago.

It is very slow especially as many of the features have built in systems to look for updates and security and back up facilities.

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Smile. You’re on Candid Notebook.

They are always running in the background. Little pop ups occur constantly and annoyingly. I know they are using processing power which I can better use elsewhere. However it is small and only weighs 1.1 Kg. I can take it anywhere. Hmmm! The solution is to strip off all the programmes and running in the background stuff I do not need and it will be ideal and is much cheaper than buying a new something which weighs the same. I am running Windows 7 Starter. Because of the CPU size I cannot upgrade to Windows 10. But it is still usable. It is now a little faster and can be used on my trip. It does have wireless so I can access internet.

Tuesday 16th January

The weather is perfect, blue skies and temps around 30° but very strong winds blowing from the south. We went for a walk along the beach at the Broadwater

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Looking north. I love The Broadwater at this time of day. in fact any time of day is good.

and Donnis had a swim in the lagoon.

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The Lagoon at The Broadwater. Safe family swimming and splashing.

This is a lovely safe family location and is always popular.

Wednesday 17th January.

Today is the first day of Role Specific vehicle training for the Commonwealth Games. It was a long day, mostly in the classroom. We started at 8am and finished a little after 5pm. The last 90 minutes of the day was spent in a vehicle getting used to it and driving to various venues to be used for the games and looking for our specific parking signs. We could not find any signs we were told to expect to see and as we were told by the facilitators at the end of the day, they have not yet been installed. Grrr! We were then told that was our last specific training day but we are encouraged to attend as many Open Days to try different cars and different routes as we can manage. I went to enrol for a number of Open Days only to be told they can only book one day at a time as they expect a heavy demand!!! To complicate matters, my depot at the Athletes Village will not be available until 22nd March two days after athletes etc start arriving! In the meantime I have to book into the far northern depot to learn routes etc for the central depot. Next week I start the first of “how many” Open Days to learn 44 maps and venues,  7 levels of service codes, vehicle Access & Parking Permits, Checkpoints, Screening Areas, Load Zones, Parking and Staging, Holding Bays along with Navigation via Samsung J3 phones and priority lanes on the M1 and other main roads.

Phew!!!

Friday 19th January

I have been trying to ride to and along the waterfront at The Broadwater this week. Arriving usually before 6am it is a magical time of day but hordes of other walkers, riders and pram pushers also enjoy that time of day. No matter. It is simply quite enjoyable being there with the near perfect weather and just enjoying the day the weather and salt air.

Sometime overnight a large nice looking houseboat ran aground . I

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Imagine trying to make breakfast when the houseboat has run aground.

t appears there may not have been damage to the houseboat but the pride of the skipper may have been injured.

Sunday 21st January

The houseboat was still aground at 6am this morning. I guess they are waiting for a higher than usual tide to refloat.

After lunch we went to Seaworld Beach for a walk. The day was hot but the lovely sea breeze on the shore was delightful. We also discovered the water temperature was 26°. That was warm enough even for me to run in and have a surf except the seas have been huge this week and combined with a northeasterly and falling tide the surf was more like a washing machine with a strong rip dragging to the north. The beach advice was, as usual, swim between the flags and because of the rip, keep your feet on the bottom. Water clarity was surprisingly clear after a week of big seas. Despite the less than favourable surf conditions I enjoyed trying to body surf a few waves.

589. Sunday 14th January 2018. King Lake, Hastings, home and a railway journey plan…

Monday 8th January

We dropped the girls at Uncle Scott’s house then went for a drive to Westernport Bay. Bear on mind it was an hours drive to Scott’s home then another hour to Hastings Marina.

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This Visitor Information Centre has been described as a pretty building in a pretty location.

Westernport Bay is a much smaller bay to the east of Port Phillip Bay where Melbourne is located. Topographically it is almost choked off by Phillip Island which is Internationally recognised as a Motorcycle racing circuit and V8 Supercars Championships course. The Island was named in honour of Arthur Phillip the first Governor of New South Wales.

Most of the rest of Westernport Bay (Confusing name as it is east of Port Phillip Bay but I suppose it is West of the East coast of Victoria – go figure) is relatively shallow which, along with large tidal movements contribute to the less than pretty marine environment. I understand the water is always a dark murky shade of mud. Also filling up a fair chunk of the bay is French Island which is a National Park.

We arrived at Hastings which has two marinas separated by a small spit of land. One looks terribly run down, old, uncared for, as do most of the boats berthed there.

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Marina at low tide. The mud drops away very quickly to deep water.
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The poorer marina.

The other marina looks run down, uncared for and has a slightly better class of boat berthed there.

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These boats are in the better marina although the GEORGIANNA MCHAFFEE is listed for sale and no longer conducts dinner cruises and weddings and so on. It is listed for sale. A cool $850,000 would get you this once lovely boat plus lots of maintenance and you are on your way to explore.

Actually I found it rather depressing and similar to many aging marinas I encountered in Alaska, Canada and the USA. Given my Marine Insurance background (Marine Insurance includes Marina’s, Jetties, Wharves, Pylons, Pontoons, Floating Restaurants and so on) I was somewhat surprised to see lots of problems in and around the marinas which normally are subject to an Insurers Survey of Safety. These marinas are poor cousins compared to first class marinas I am used to in northern Queensland.

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I have been unable to find information about this wreck. It has been there a long time and is only a few hundred metres from the jetty. The area surrounding the jetty and marina’s is a bit ugly at low tide when all the mud is on display.

One marina had a smart eatery –Pelikan Societe – overlooking the small tidal basin. Although the marina looks quite poor the eatery looked quite smart and attractive but charged very high prices (for example $28 for a piece of fish, chips and a small salad). Even the fish comes pre- packaged and frozen, not fresh prepared. Unimpressed we left before ordering. The nearby suburb of Hastings is quite busy but again looks tired.  (Previously known as King’s Creek and Star Point, its post office opened on 4 February 1863.)   We found an eatery – Beach Hut Café, although it is a long way from a beach – which also sold pre- packaged frozen fish but at a more respectable $10 for the same meal.

If I sound unimpressed by Hastings, I was. However beauty is in the eye of the beholder and looking around the area it seems there were lots of people who probably disagree with me.

Tuesday 9th January

On the road by 9am for the one hour journey down the mountain to Melbourne Airport. Donnis and I were booked “standby” on a Jet Star flight at 12.55 to the Gold Coast. We were told we are passengers 6 & 7 on standby with 6 seats available – at the moment. Depending on seniority of passengers also on standby we could get pushed down the list even further. We had to wait almost two hours before being called for our boarding pass at 12.25. We still had to get our luggage checked and weighed and a mad dash through security and a long long long gallop to terminal 48, the furthest terminal from the ticket counter. On arrival at the gate we discovered the plane had been delayed by 30 minutes.

Grrr!

Well at least we had an opportunity to sit and catch our breath. Our seats were in aisle 11, over the wings and beside an emergency escape exit. We had to undergo a brief training session on what to do in an emergency. As a coincidence we did a similar emergency training on the flight to Sydney on Christmas Day.

On arrival at Coolangatta we caught the 777 double decker bus to Broadbeach. This is a free service and the aisles were jammed with luggage. At least it was air conditioned and only stopped at a few select stops. At Broadbeach we stepped off the bus and onto the Light Rail as far as the Gold Coast University Hospital where a friend from our village, Marie, was waiting for us. We were home by 3.30 and noted the constant 30° heat and high humidity of around 85%. A big change from the cool temps in Kinglake where humidity levels were around 30%.

Sunday 14th January 2018.

The rest of this week has been spent just getting back into a rhythm of daily life and when it gets hot, just stay indoors and relax.

For the record I have been planning a major trip after the Commonwealth Games (April). We have been visiting airline websites looking for good deals and booking as required. As it turns out, our flights through Canada have been booked first before our return flight to Canada was booked. Today I was booking an Amtrak Train   https://www.amtrak.com/home    journey across the USA. I wanted to start in Vancouver B C (Canada). This leg was by Amtrak Bus to Seattle WA (USA) where it connects with the Amtrak Empire Builder train to Chicago. The journey takes two days and nights to cross 6 states over 2000 miles and travels through the lower section of The Rocky Mountains including stops in Glacier National Park which has spectacular scenery and is a mecca for snow skiing. We change trains in Chicago for the Lake Shore Limited for another overnight almost 600 mile trip to Buffalo NY (USA). This train journey follows parts of Lakes Huron and Erie. At Buffalo we change trains again for the day journey on the Maple Leaf to Niagara Falls ON (Canada). We have not yet booked hotel or car hire for NF as I had enough drama today just getting the train journey sorted.

As I was booking the train on-line, the entry rejected three times for “ID Error 115” (No, not ID 10 T error). As I was attempting to try yet again the phone rang. It was my banks credit card section to say a transaction had processed 6 times and caused them to react and call me so I could react and throw some words around which did not adequately describe my emotions at that moment!

Grrr!

After several deep breaths I decided to call Amtrak Bookings in the USA despite the time difference it being almost 8pm on their Saturday night. There was some delay as the northern part of the USA was in blizzard conditions and lots of trains were delayed and schedules were out of kilter.  It seems their switchboard was jammed. Anyway a lovely lady finally answered my call. She offered to finish my booking and that’s when I discovered we would have been sitting up all the way if my booking had proceeded. WE wanted a room with shower and toilet. So, their system error was to my advantage. Now I have a booking including a room. The room also includes all meals, electricity, WiFi and access to the panorama car. While this was happening Amtrak also found the earlier error and reversed those 6 transactions.

Phew!

I am looking forward to this trip especially as I have always wanted to have a train journey which included overnight travel and a dining car.

While all this going on, we were watching an all- day documentary on SBS TV, called, The Ghan. It was simply the long train journey from Adelaide to Darwin with minimal editing and was mostly made up of endless flat desert vista with an occasional voice over the train PA system or some interesting historical facts appearing as writing on screen above the unwinding track. Sometimes video of the train passing over a river or an overhead view from a drone and even a Google Earth sequence made what sounds like a boring nothing happening event to listening for a change in the sound as something different happens.

A bit like a real train trip perhaps?

588. Sunday 7th January 2018. Still at Kinglake, Wineries, Chocolaterie, walk in the forest and our first post for 2018…

Monday 1st January – New Years Day.

What a lazy New Years Day today was. Or was it? We went for a drive to Lady Stonehavens Lookout at Frank Thomson Reserve on the outskirts of Kinglake.

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Frank Donnis Errol Amelia Hannah and Nicole at Lady Stonehavens Lookout at Frank Thomson Reserve. Melbourne is way in the hazy distance behind Donnis and Errol.
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Melbourne under a layer of its own smog as seen from Lady Stonehavens Lookout at Frank Thomson Reserve.

By the way Kinglake is about 580 m above sea level. There is a great distant view of the Melbourne skyline from here.

Next it was off to Masons Falls Picnic Area.

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Part of the long multi drop Masons Falls.

Recent rains meant the falls were working. Not pumping but working. Granddaughter Hannah’s Pre School has a class visit here every week so she was able to tell us where all the paths led and what the interpretive panels were all about.

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Hannah showed us how she learned how to climb this pole during one of her regular pre school bush excursions.
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Errol at the top of Masons Falls.

On our way home we stopped at Kinglake Raspberries to pick our own.

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Hannah at Raspberry picking.

http://www.kinglake-raspberries.com.au/ By now I had a stinking heavy duty headache and all I wanted to do was lay down under the shade of a tree until it was time to go and could get something for the headache. Once the others had picked a small bucket of raspberries we left.

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Nicole at Raspberry picking.

None too soon as far as I was concerned. I had a couple of Panadeine Forte a cup of tea and a good lay down. I slept for the next 3 hours and woke not exactly refreshed but at least minus a headache.

Tuesday 2nd January

Errol went to work today. He was piloting Qantas Link from Melbourne to Kangaroo Island and back, then to Hobart Tasmania where he stayed for the night.

Nicole Amelia Hannah Donnis and I took the opportunity to visit the Chocolaterie and Ice Creamery at Yarra Glen.

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Amongst a horde of sweet tooths at The Chocolaterie.

It is amazing how something with the right product, located in an out of the way place can draw such huge crowds. Nicole ordered a chocolate fondue for two people. I called it Death by Chocolate. It included a large bowl of melted chocolate along with liquorice, apple slices, strawberries, banana pieces, honeycomb, nougat, peanut brittle and marshmallows for dipping in the chocolate. It was enough for 5 of us. On reflection it was probably too much. I never want to see chocolate again.

At least until tomorrow!

Nicole drove the girls to Melbourne as their other grandmother is taking them to the movies in the morning.

Wednesday 3rd January

Woke this morning to cold and a dismal day. It was raining and a thick fog blanketed the world. The road outside was only dimly visible.

Errol arrived home then we drove to Melbourne for a 42nd birthday dinner for Greg, Nicoles brother. It was rather an International affair as we sat down to dinner. Greg’s girlfriend is visiting from Russia

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Superman and Batgirl, otherwise known as Greg and Christinna flanked by Errol & Nicole at the Vegie Bowl.

while Nicoles other brother, Scott, is married to a Peruvian woman, Monica.

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Mum Monica with baby Miranda.

Rounding out the Internationals of course is Donnis from Canada. The rest of us are Ozzies.

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Hannah & Amelia with Superman & Batgirl.

Dinner was at a vegetarian Chinese restaurant called the Vegie Bowl.at Forest Hill, a suburb of Melbourne. https://www.facebook.com/vegiebowlrestaurant/ The restaurant although vegetarian and owned by Buddhists has things on the menu such as sweet and sour pork, beef in black bean sauce, honey chicken. However none of the dishes contain meat. The “meat” is a combination of soy, tofu, mushrooms and spices. It was a unique experience but not one I could dine at on a regular basis.

Thursday 4th January

Today we were given a jolting reminder of the devastation which occurred in Kinglake during the bushfires of February 2009. In the 500 metre distance between the house and the small shopping centre the houses are mostly new or if not new, appear to be a mix of old but repaired. There are a few vacant blocks. On one we noticed what would once have been painted fence and gate posts. The posts are charred but still with some paint adhering some of which is still bubbled from the heat. Even the house we are staying in is new, built only in the last 5 years. The house next door has been rebuilt although still incomplete. After walking around just this small section of the community I am reminded of the mythical bird, the Phoenix which rose again from its own ashes.

Conversation at the local supermarket is all about the expected temperature predicted for this weekend, 41 degrees for two days. People are concern°ed about the dry heat and the fear of potential bushfire. The surrounding bushland is dry as is the stringy bark hanging off the trees and the tinder like undergrowth. The locals, having lived through a nightmare, are concerned it will happen again.

Friday 5th January

It was a hot day today, about 30° but the talk around the house and on the TV news is the expected high temp tomorrow of around 40° which will make today’s hot day cool by comparison.

Donnis and I took a walk in the Kinglake National Park to Jehosophat Gully.

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This was an amazingly shaped dead tree on the outskirts of Kinglak National Park. If you look carefully you can see a new tree sprouting to the right of the dead trunk.

It was a nice walk but we never found the gully.

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A Tree Fern frond beginning to uncurl in the morning sun at Kinglake National Park.

Errol is on standby flight tomorrow. From 6 am he has to be available if a pilot is required. The only way we can get to the airport from here is when Errol goes to work. Tonight we packed our bags just in case he gets called in. Our standby tickets will be booked on line as we travel.

Tonight was warm enough to kick off the doona at bedtime.

Saturday 6th January

Errol did not get called in so we stay in Kinglake for a few more days.

By 11am the temperature was already 30° and by 5.40 had reached 41.7° but that is where it stopped. The heat was made more unbearable by a hot and strong north westerly wind. A cool change came hurtling in from the south and by 8pm the temperature had dropped to 21°. It was positively cold by comparison.

During the day we drove to the well known and popular Flying Tarts Bakery and Cafe. Although only 2pm they were preparing to close as the high temperatures has kept customers away. They only had 30 customers all day. Well alrighty then we bought the loaf of bread we came to buy plus a huge Vegetable Quiche a half dozen pies, several cakes and slices. Why not? All were marked down to half price. We had a delicious dinner with a delightful quiche and a garden salad with items mainly from Errol’s garden.

Tonight was cool enough to pull the doona back onto the bed.

Sunday 7th January.

Back to winter in the summer. Overcast with a chill wind blowing. I looked in vain all around the town but could not find the iceberg to account for the cold conditions.

We drove down the mountains into the wine producing area known as the Yarra Valley.

First stop was at an impressive winery called TarraWarra Estate Winery.

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The compacted earth walls at the entrance to TarraWarra Estate Wines.

http://www.tarrawarra.com.au/ This winery boasts an impressive group of buildings, including a museum/art gallery. The buildings are made from pressed earth giving an appearance of sandstone. Wine tasting at the underground bunker- like Cellar Door starts at $5 for a splash taste of 5 different wines.

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Underground Cellar Door at TarraWarra.

A little rich for our blood as is the price of wines in the bottle being around $50.

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Underground Cellar Room filled with barrels of liquid gold.

The art gallery was free entry as was entry to all the grounds. The vineyards are neat and well cared for.

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TarraWanna Estate views aceoss the vineyards.

The art gallery was huge with this months displays all being photographs – enlarged of course and with some tricky manipulation none of which appealed to me.

The lavish dining room had a menu to match. Lunch was $60 per person for a two course meal. That was also more than we wanted to spend for lunch but a great many people were enjoying themselves in the dining room.

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Coffee Deck at TarraWanna Estate
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View through the walls.

We drove to Healesville and had a look around this old town reportedly the centre of the Yarra Valley Wine Region. We stopped to look at what may have been a car boot sale or perhaps a Sunday Markets. I am not sure what it was called but after looking at the ancient handicrafts and old junk from backyard sheds and garages I was ready to leave after a few minutes. Next stop was the Grand Hotel.

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The ageing, gracefully or oteherwise Grand Hotel at Heallsville.

Often referred to as the “Grand Old Lady” we thought it may have been nice to have lunch but it was crowded, noisy and a burger cost $24.

We found a nice Chinese Restaurant which had lunch specials for $12.

After lunch we visited another grand winery, The Rochford. They also charge $5 a head for a taste of 5 different wines. The man who served us the 5 “tastes” regaled us with stories of grape varieties, bouquet, body etc etc etc.

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Donnis samples one of 5 white wines at the Rochford Winery. The wine man with all the answers brings a fresh bottle. We learned something new today. When the wine is fresh it tends to have a greenish tinge which then turns crystal clear and as it ages it takes on a darker and darker yellow tint.

He also commented how this winery did not send much of its produce to other states such as NSW and Queensland whereas wine makers in the Hunter region of NSW and Barossa Valley in SA are more well known interstate and overseas. He said this with a certain amount of disdain for the wines outside the Yarra Valley. This winery was tidy and the grape vines well tended but was simply not as much in the impressive category as TarraWarra.

We next stopped at the RACV (Royal Automobile Club of Victoria) https://www.racv.com.au/travel-leisure/racv-club/healesville.html a semi exclusive golf course with lots of pamper. I say semi exclusive as we just drove in, parked and walked around.

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The manicured golf course at the RACV Country Club.

Still on our way back to Kinglake we took a back road passing through a small village called Toolangi where we stopped at the huge timber Forest Discovery Centre.

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Toolangi Forest Discovery Centre.
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Toolangi Foest Disciovery Centre Timber Mural.

Nearby there is a 45 minute sculpture walk through the forest.

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Toolangi Foest Sculpture Walk.

What we have noticed in our drives are the number of locations marked as CFA (Country Fire Authority) water storage point. I guess the logic is if you are fighting a fire in a rural area you need to know where water is available.

Whew! Another long day. Thank goodness it was not heatwave conditions like yesterday.

587. Sunday 31st December 2017. We are in Kinglake Victoria and our last post for 2017…

Saturday 30th December.

Who is silly enough to be awake, packed, dressed and ready to leave by 4.30 am? Sandi & Dave have an early morning 7am flight from Mascot. By co-incidence so do we. Sandi & Dave have a hire car and agreed to take us to the airport. They have a Virgin flight to Brisbane and change there for Mackay. We have a direct flight on JetStar to Melbourne. On arrival we were greeted with a cold and overcast day and had to spend the next 5 hours sitting around the airport waiting for Errol to fly in from Sydney to pick us up and take us home to Kinglake. I was surprised not to find a lounge area to wait with comfortable chairs and a coffee table or two. Instead we basically bought a coffee and muffin at Muffin Break and sat there the rest of the day. Once at Kinglake we soon discovered temps were even lower, thankfully they lit the log fire so a transition to a cold mountain area would not be so much of a shock to me.

Sunday 31st December – New Years Eve

Errol and I were up Kinglake early, that is 7am and went for a brisk walk through the bush. It had to be a brisk walk to keep warm. The temperature warmed a little during the day but not what I would call summer warm.

For those astute readers who recall Kinglake in the mountains outside of Melbourne was the site of one of Australia’s worst bushfires on 7th February 2009, yes it is true. 173 people died in the fires  which became known as Black Saturday. 440 people were injured, 450,000 hectares of land burned, over 3,500 houses and other buildings destroyed. Looking around Kinglake now it is a little difficult to picture the scenes of utter devastation, death and heartbreak almost 9 years ago. Yes trees can be seen which are blackened but as normal in the Australian bush, it regenerates quickly. I am not sure about the families who had to abandon their properties or who lost loved ones if they regenerate so easily. So far we have not seen the vacant sites of burned out properties. That’s probably a good thing. In fact I would prefer if we do not see those burned out properties.

In the afternoon we went to a barbecue at a neighbours property to see in the New Year. As is usually the case I struggle to stay awake long enough to join in any merriment. But I did. Everybody else was tired as well because shortly after midnight everybody was saying goodbye and heading home.

Happy New Year to all.

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Sisters Hannah & Amelia enjoy a snack while sitting on their trampoline while the black Labrador Walter snoozes and dreams of slow rabbits and the Alexandra Parrot, Nelson reminds the girls he will eat anything they eat.

See you in 2018.

586. Friday 29th December 2017. Train and Ferry to Watsons Bay & The Gap…

This is the third of four posts for this week.

Friday29th December

Eight of us took a train trip from Gymea to Circular Quay. The original plan was to visit either Cockatoo Island or Goat Island but both were not open today. Next on our list was Fort Denison also known as Pinchgut but there was a long wait for the next ferry service. Instead we went to Watsons Bay by Sydney Ferries. Now that I have my Seniors Opal Card (which was in the bum bag and only received by mail yesterday afternoon) I can travel all day on bus train or ferry services for $2.50. I can use any approved service in the Sydney Metropolitan area as far north as Newcastle, Katoomba to the west and Bomaderry to the south is covered. I joined a train at Gymea and changed at Town Hall. Cost was about $1.80. Train to Circular Quay brought total expenditure to $2.20. The ferry to Watsons Bay brought the total to $2.50 and stayed there all day even during the return voyage. Thats a nice sweet deal by the NSW Government and is open to all aged pensioners not just NSW residents. Just as an aside, this trip, one way, took about 90 minutes. Had we travelled by car the trip would have taken 2 -3 hours in busy city traffic. Each way. We would have needed two cars then we would have needed to find somewhere to park when we got there. Really, using the train and the ferry was the simplest cheapest option and we did not have to battle traffic.

The trip on the high speed ferry was wonderful with fabulous views of Sydney Harbour. Call me prejudiced but I believe it must be the most magnificent harbour city in the world.

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Sydney Harbour icon, the Opera House. The buildiing of this monumental masterpiece was wrapped in drama and skyrocketing costs and even public opposition. A sort of an ugly duckling which grew into a beautiful swan.
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The wonderful iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge with an iconic Sydney Harbour Ferry.

Also berthed at Circular Quay was the Royal Caribbean International Cruise Ship, Ovation of the Seas. Wow! This is one huge cruise ship capable of carrying 4905 passengers. It will be heading off on a cruise within the next day.

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A fast ferry, a slow iconic ferry, the huge OVATION OF THE SEAS with the backdrop of Sydney Harbour Bridge.
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“OVATION of the SEAS”

Not far from Circular Quay is the Island called Fort Denison which is also known by its alternative name of Pinchgut.

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Pinchgut has been a prison where inmates were given a week in chains and only bread and water for rations. Later it became a Military Fortress and is now under the control of the Sydney Harbour National Park.
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Fort Denison, otherwise known as Pinchgut.
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Sailing on Sydney Harbour is so much fun and on race days is so serious, especially in the 18 footers.

Along the way the ferry stopped at Rose Bay where the original Catalina Seaplanes were based during WWII. Later Qantas Empire Airways operated a fleet of seven Catalina’s to service their air route to New Caledonia, New Hebrides, Fiji and Lord Howe Island. These seaplane routes were discontinued in 1958. Today a fleet of Sydney Seaplanes https://www.seaplanes.com.au/ still use this Catalina area for their Scenic flights and flights to romantic destinations of isolated beach and river locations.

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Sydney Seaplanes at the Catalina Base. Sadly two days after this photo was taken, one of these planes crashed in the Hawksbury River killing all 6 aboard.

(Sadly one of the flights to a Hawksbury River isolated restaurant crashed on its return flight on 31/12/17 killing all 6 persons onboard)

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Taxiing to a take off position.
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Increasing speed going up, up…
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…and away as it ascends jut over our ferry.

From the Rose Bay wharf we could see Fernleigh Castle

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Fernleigh Castle.

built in 1874 from local sandstone and comprising 30 rooms. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fernleigh_Castle  

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Three icons. OPera House, Sydney Harbour Bridge and a sailboat.

Along the way we passed by Shark Island, part of NSW National Parks.

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Shark Island.

It was once a Naval Base and an Animal Quarantine Station. The island is named, not because it is plagued by sharks in the water but because of its shark shape. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shark_Island_(Port_Jackson)

Once at Watsons Bay the first order of the day was to have a seafood lunch at Doyles Seafoods http://www.doyles.com.au/12201+0+doyles-on-the-wharf.htm which has been operating from a wharf location since 1885.

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Doyles Seafood at the jetty.

This place was once a popular spot to buy fresh cooked seafood. Now it is a very very popular place to buy fresh cooked seafood. So popular in fact that Doyles have their upmarket restaurant and the take away jetty location. Both have fabulous views looking back towards the Sydney skyline.

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Sydney skyline from Watsons Bay ferry terminal with summer storm clouds building.

Next we took a walk to the famous gap and saw a huge anchor recovered from the wreck of the S.S.Dunbar which sank in May 1857 with the loss of 221 lives. Only a 23 year old seaman survived.

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Recovered anchor from the wreck of the SS DUNBAR.
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Another part of The Gap known as Jacobs Ladder. Coincidentally a partial ladder is attached to the rocks but is in reality not the Jacobs ladder.
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North and south heads, the opening to Sydney Harbour. From the sea the opening does not appear so obvious and in the days of Captain Coook in 1770 he sailed past, not realising the huge open, deep and protected harbour behind those sandstone bastions.

From the top of The Gap looking south 2 Klm along Old South Head Road ,Vaucluse, the Macquarie Lighthouse stands out as a distinctive icon. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Macquarie_Lighthouse This was the first and the longest serving lighthouse in Australia. There has been a navigational aid on the site since 1791 and this lighthouse was completed in 1883.

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Macquarie Lighthouse.
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Sydney skyline including Harbour Bridge from The Gap.
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The Gap looking north. Long known as a place to commit suicide. The last known suicidewas in 2007 when a well known newscaster apparently committed suicide.
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The Gap looking south.
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On the rocks at Jacobs Ladder looking towards Manly.

Afterwards some of us enjoyed a refreshing swim in the Watsons Bay Harbour Swimming Enclosure.

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A popular harbourside swimming enclosure at Watsons Bay. There are countles enclosures like this around the harbour some bigger some smaller some quite elaborate. They were built to give protection from shark attack. The last known shark attack in Sydney Harbour was in 1963 at Middle Harbour, part of the huge harbour environs.

This was our second long tiring day in the sunshine in a row. By the time we showered and dressed ready to go to dinner we were tired enough to stay home. Instead we went to the Miranda Diggers Club. Some of us have an early start tomorrow so we retired early.

585. Thursday 28th December 2017. A walk along the clifftops from Bondi to Coogee…

As promised I have broken this week into smaller parcels. Lots of photos.

Thursday 28th December

Today we caught a train to Bondi Junction then a bus to the Internationally famous, Bondi Beach.

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Bondi is one of Sydney’s larger beaches. At this time of day it was beginning to fill up. By midday it would became a mass of beach umbrellas and shades and groups of people lounging in the sun.

We were here to do the Bondi to Coogee Clifftop Walk.

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The northern end of Bondi Beach packed with multi level blocks of flats.

Even at the beginning of this 6Klm walk one thing was very clear. This would be no casual stroll with family and very few other people. Somehow, somewhen, this wonderful cliff walk has become an International Iconic must do. walk. So many people going in both directions. Young people, older people, some barely dressed others rugged up against the blazing sun. There are steep sections and flat sections and steps and fabulous views from the top of wonderful sandstone cliffs while the ocean surges below.The walk includes Bondi Beach, McKenzies Bay, Tamarama Beach, Bronte Beach, Gordons Bay, Clovelly Beach and Coogee Beach including the Giles Bath, a mostly natural rock pool at Coogee. We spent only a few minutes gazing at Bondi which was slowly filling with people. Christmas holidays at the beach is pretty traditional here in Australia. Before midday it would be almost impossible to find somewhere to place a towel on the beach.

At the southern end of the beach is the famous Bondi Icebergs Club and pools.

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The welcoming blue water and the dazzling white of the pools is a stand out vision of the Bondi Icebergs Club Pools.

https://icebergs.com.au/ Bondi Icebergs has been the home of Winter swimming since 1929 and the famous pool is open to visitors all year round. The pools are blindingly white and the water colour a welcoming azure, all this set against a background of, cream, brown, yellow and orange Sydney Sandstone and the clear water of the Pacific Ocean.

After leaving Bondi on an increasingly steep path which soon levelled and then inclined down as we approached McKenzies Bay

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McKenzies Bay looking back towards Bondi Beach.

and Tamarama Beach

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The clifftop walk pathway to McKenzies Bay is paved with irregulat sandstone slabs. Dave shows his walking style.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tamarama,_New_South_Wales where we planned to have coffee at the Tamarama Beach Cafe tucked into the sandstone cliffs.

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Bev Sandi and Pete along the path towards Tamarama Point. Bev and Sandi are not the two in black gym outfits.
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Did I mention the large numbers of people walking the 6 Klm Clifftop Walk? Here they are on the way to Tamarama.

At this time of day it was exposed to the 31 degree heat and any shade was already taken up.

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Leaving McKenzies Bay and approaching Tamarama Point.

We decided to keep walking to Bronte beach and have coffee at one of the dozen or so funky eateries overlooking the beach.

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Entering Tamarama Point looking towards Bronte Beach.
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A body surfer and a boardrider share the same wave break over Tamarama reef. I have fond memories of body surfing over this reef.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bronte_Beach One thing you can be assured of in Australia, good coffee. The trick is to find a place not already crowded and able to provide enough seating so seven of us can have a coffee together.

Along the path we noticed a folly which is becoming a tourist attraction in its own right. A luxury home site overlooking the beach and ocean has been excavated through solid sandstone. The developer ran out of money. Unfortunately the excavation is so close to adjoining properties they would be at risk of collapsing into the excavation. Huge steel props have been installed to hold up the retaining walls but that is as far as the project has gone.

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This excavation is through solid sandstone. The site overlooks Tamarama Beach. Although there is lots of vegetation obscuring the view there are several steel braces to hold up the wall especially the house on the right. The excavation is right up against the wall.

As we walked along it had become apparent that English, at least on this international walk, is a secondary language. We heard many conversations as people passed and very few were in English.

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Pete on Tamarama Beach. It would have been our firts stop for a coffee at a beach cafe. The location was perfect except that all the tables were in full sun. On a day when temperatures reached 31 degrees, sitting in full sun is not very comfortable.

While enjoying coffee at Bronte Beach I pondered about continuing the walk. The day was getting hotter and my feet were protesting but we started the walk as a group and by golly we would finish as a group.

A common misconception about Bronte Beach is that it was named in honour of the Bronte Sisters. It wasn’t. It was named after a military figure, Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson, Duke of Bronte. Nelson was awarded the title of Duke of Bronte from the King of Naples in 1799 and from that time signed his name as “Nelson and Bronte” In the early days the beach was called Nelson. I prefer Bronte.

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Bronte Beach,

After being refreshed and recharged by coffee we started on the next leg of the walk. This proved to be long and steep in parts but all of it picturesque.

Part of the cliff walk in this next section has been closed for safety reasons. Land slip at the bottom of Waverley Cemetery has pushed the path towards the sea.

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At the southern end of Bronte the clifftop walk usually passes helow the Waverley Cemetery. Recent heavy rains ment some land slip and the clifftop path became unstable. While repairs and rerouting are underway the path now leads through the cemetery.

While repairs are carried out the walk has been diverted through Waverley Cemetery.

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Waverley Cemetery busy with clifftop walkers.

Most of the cemetery is closed off to walkers and strangely there were signs stating that photography and videography of the graves, headstones, mausoleums etc is banned. I am unable to find any information about why such a ban is in place. I did find the following – Waverley Cemetery is of State Heritage significance. This means that it will never be anything other than an operating cemetery.

Next beach on the walk is the long and narrow, no surf, popular family destination, Clovelly Beach.

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Clovelly Bowls Club. Although this site and the land is worth multi millions of dollars, the club itself is not very wealthy.
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Clovelly Beach is long and narrow. Most beach goers sit on the rocks or concrete as there is not enough beach for the families who flock here. There is no surf.

Although there is no surf there is a Surf Lifesaving Club.

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The little beach at Clovelly.
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Clovelly Beach. In the upper left can just be seen a small seawater pool. For some strange reason it is undergoing and empty and clean process – at the busiest part of the season!

Next is a another popular family beach called Gordons Bay.

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Gordons Bay looking towards Coogee.
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A quiet place for family swimming at Gordons Bay. No surf, no rips, no undercurrents…no lifeguards.

There is no surf, no surf club, no facilities except timber racks to store small boats. Regardless of no facilities it is still popular.

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Boat storage racks at Gordons Bay.

After another long uphill trek we finally made it to Coogee Beach which is popular with everybody. We stopped for a cooling dip in a rockpool known as Giles Baths

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Dave sits on a rock carrying out his duties as watchful sentinel at Giles Baths.
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Pete is cautiously entering the water at Giles Baths. Water temp was described as brisk.
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Boys of all ages just love jumping off the rocks into the water especially if there are a couple of girls they can show off in front of.
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Look carefully. You can see this show off mitimed his back flip at Giles Baths.
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Sheer and tall solid sandston cliffs surrounding Giles Baths at Coogee.
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High sandstone cliffs at Lurline Bay to the south of Coogee Beach. By the time we had lunch at Cooggee the thought of continuing the walk to Lurline Bay and Maroubra Beach was out of the question.

Every eatery in and around Coogee was busy but we still managed to find somewhere to stop for lunch before catching a bus back to Central Railway and then a train back to Gymea.

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Dave Sandi & Pete on Central Station. Although Dave is hamming it up the train was zooing into the station. We had only arrived moments before.

My bum bag arrived by Express Mail earlier in the afternoon.

Yahoo!

I feel whole again.