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