Month: July 2018

632. Sunday 29th July 2018. Dentist, Lunar Eclipse and Blood Moon and PIES…

Friday 27th July

We attended Griffith University Dental Clinic today for a check-up, clean and polish. We are quite happy to volunteer as patients for the students to learn on real life situations. The students need to learn and they are always well spoken, knowledgeable and under supervision. It is nice to interact with young people who will be the leaders in dentistry in a few years.

Saturday 28th July.

The alarm woke us at 4.15 am in time for us to dress in warm clothes and spend a chilly hour in our park beside Biggera Creek.

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Eight second time exposure. Yes, there is the moon shining, out of focus while a little above and to the left is the red planet…MARS.

The Lunar Eclipse and following Blood Moon was what we wanted to see and we did. However I had a major mental block when setting the camera so I had minimal shake when pressing the shutter button. I really had a DUH! morning as I tried to take 8 second exposures on a moving moon. On top of that I simply did not try to get a quick shutter speed and higher ISO. In short almost all my photos turned out blurred and or not in focus.

Hmmm! Maybe I will do better next time. I only have to wait until 31st January 2019.

By now readers will have seen many many photos of the eclipse and blood moon by far more professional photographers

Sunday 29th July

Today was another morning of getting up early. This time so we can get on the road. First we drove to Redland Bay to take a few items we had stored for Peter. Then it was off to Acacia Ridge to watch grandson Chris play Rugby League. This week they lost 18/16 amid some controversy. The ref allowed the game to continue three minutes past full time. In that three minutes the opposing team scored a try and converted it, putting them two points in the lead. Protests were in vain. The result stands.

By the time we left the field it was well after 2 pm and we thought we would have some lunch on our way home. We decided that as the time was close to 3pm there would not be many customers at The Yatala Pie Shop.    http://www.yatalapies.com.au/   How wrong can you be? It seems many other people must have been on their way home and felt like a pie at the same time as us. The shop was what we call “chock a block” full of customers. I must confess to having a fondness for a good meat pie and Yatala make a good meat pie. Today I had one of my favourites, a Steak and Kidney Pie. This is a huge pie and Donnis had to help me eat it all. The pie shop is located between the M1 motorway on one side and the Gold Coast Railway line on the other. It has been operating in Yatala for 130 years. The shop is located between two reaches of the Albert River. The pie shop was flooded when the Albert burst its banks on 31st March 2017. An army of employees and volunteers cleaned and repaired and remodelled, put in new ovens and refrigeration and was back in business in just 10 days. It is a credit to the owners that they make a damn good pie and people are prepared to wait and queue for them. It is also a credit to the owners that so many volunteers were prepared to get in and clean up so the shop could open again.

On previous visits to Sydney we have visited another famous pie shop, The Heatherbrae, outside Newcastle near Raymond Terrace, New South Wales.   https://www.heatherbraespies.com.au/    On each of our visits it has been busy. I think the Yatala Pie Shop may just have the edge when it comes to throughput of customers. On the other hand The Heatherbrae probably makes a better coffee.

Another iconic pie shop is Robertson Pies at, of all places, Robertson in the New South Wales hinterland. I recall the people of Wollongong on a cold wet wintery day would drive to Robertson for a meat pie and a cuppa. As a bonus it sometimes snows in Robertson. Patrons often bought a couple of family pies to take home. I also recall when trail bike riding in the mountains our group always managed to take a detour through Robertson for a pie before riding down the steep winding Macquarie Pass to The Gong. http://www.robertsonpieshop.com.au/menu.html

Beechworth Pies in Victoria are available at several locations but none bigger than the town of Beechworth. They call themselves Australia’s Greatest Pie. That could be debatable but they are welcome to say so. The Great Ausie Pie Comp has a few other choices as you will see below. Of the eight locations found around Victoria, Donnis and I have eaten at five of them including the wonderful Yackandadah Bakery.   https://beechworthbakery.com.au/

Pinnacle Pies about 60 Klms west of Mackay in north Queensland also have a stake (pun not intended) in the best steak pie comp. The pies are not made in a traditional bakery. Rather they are made in the small kitchen of the rustic Pinnacle Pub. Once upon a time they offered a meal free if you eat a large pie with chips in one sitting in under 10 minutes. Pinnacle only offer a plain steak pie. No chicken, curry, steak and kidney and so on. All they have is a steak pie with chips.

A stand out bakery is Snows Bakery and Bread in Alpha some 1,050 Klms northwest of Brisbane. It is a surprise to find such good and tasty pies at the right price in a town of less than 600 people. Many towns no longer have a local bakery so it is a pleasure to see this bakery still going strong and offering a good pie at a good price.

I cannot forget to mention Freycinet Bakery and Café at Coles Bay Tasmania who make a yummy scallop pie. They have a similar population base as Alpha in Queensland but arguably more tourists. Unfortunately they only make a few scallop pies each day and by 9am they are all sold. Actually scallops are not that easy to buy in quantities, not compared to buying steak or chicken or even pork. We managed to buy the last scallop pie of the day when we left. I had to share with the co-pilot who asked if I would go back for another but that meant staying another night and waking even earlier. We had a timetable to maintain.

If I had to choose a winner I would put my choices to one side and take a look at the Great Aussie Pie Competition winners for 2017.   https://greataussiepiecomp.com.au/    None of my contenders even gets a mention. In fact most of the Winners and Runners up came from Western Australia where we have not yet tried a pie. Another huge surprise is the Fairbairn Bakery of Cannonvale Queensland won an award. WTF! That bakery did not even exist when we left there in 2014. Hmmm! We expect to be in Airlie Beach in a month. Perhaps I can put the Fairbairn Bakery on my to- do list.

I could have a few GRRRR moments coming. WordPress, my blog platform since day one has announced that Facebook in their wisdom have changed THEIR system and the link may or may not work. WordPress have made some suggestions how to overcome the problem and also suggest the “fix” may not in fact work depending on my settings within Facebook. The changes are due to take place from 1st August 2018 so I will soon find out if it works….or not… next week. Please keep your fingers crossed and please continue to read along with me each week. One way or another I will continue to share my blog either directly through WordPress *(I do not expect any changes if you follow directly) or for Facebook only users, via Facebook.

Somehow.

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631. Sunday 22nd July 2018. Where have all the days gone and other Reminiscences …

NO PHOTOS THIS WEEK.

Well, it has happened again.

  1. I did not publish this blog by Sunday night.
  2. I did not keep daily notes of our activities.
  3. I did not take any photos.
  4. I do not recall with any precision what we did this week.

I do know we did our usual table tennis and we went to the Gold Coast Seniors Expo because, because, well because, at least one of us is a Senior and the other is supportive. What happens at a Seniors Expo? Lots of people who sell or provide some sort of service to Seniors pay money to set up a table and hand out brochures and free pens and small writing pads to people who think they need pens and writing pads. We do.  Gosh, everybody knows that Seniors need a good supply of pens and small writing pads. At least that’s the way it works in our household.

There were lots of stalls telling us all about holiday packages. There were investment people. There were those telling us about the joy and sense of fulfillment you get from Volunteering. There were the chemist shops, hearing aid people, exercise class people, bidet shops, Optometrists, hobbyists, gardeners, mobility scooter vendors and a host of others. There was even a movie theatre chain getting people to join their movie club.

We skipped past the funeral people.

There was also entertainment including a couple of supple curvy ladies dancing to a steel drum band who were playing in the brilliant warm winter sunshine. Inside there were people talking about a product or several and a half hour bracket called Rocking Through the Ages. I quite enjoyed listening to the three piece band playing all the hits to a synchronised video of the original songs while an energetic couple danced their hearts out. Back outside there was free coffee, muffins and even a sausage sizzle, again enjoyed in the brilliant winter sunshine. Inside again for the finale, the drawing of the lucky door prizes, There was a $5,000 Virgin Airlines prize to anywhere their Australian Airlines goes to in Australia. There was a $700 kitchen gadget set and ho- hum, many many boring prizes of a free one years membership to a Probus Club. I was so disappointed not to win something I have always coveted…membership of a Probus Club.

Did I mention the brilliant warm winter sunshine?

In the beginning… This blog was created in August 2001 in the far flung northern Tropical  Queensland mythical  and mystical outpost of Airlie Beach. My very first post began – “In the beginning”, then lay dormant until 2004 when I began again in a slow way until 2005 when I really got serious about a regular blog. It was then I decided I would post every Sunday night come hell or high water. Even while working and even when travelling full time I still managed to keep notes, maintain my photos and publish every Sunday night. Mostly I managed to maintain that output but this year and especially these last couple of weeks I have struggled to maintain that Sunday night deadline. I promise I will do my best to publish on time and keep my notes and photo’s updated every day.

Recently while in Canada fort 8 weeks I still managed to maintain daily notes (diary) and download photos from the camera every day. I posted often, whenever I had access to internet. Sometimes I posted every two days.

I promise to try to do better.

Friday 20th July

My youngest daughter Shelly, turns ++ today. Happy Birthday Shelley.

Donnis has been shuffling around, snuffling and coughing and SNEEZING the last several days.  She is now certain she has a full blown case of the flu. She is going through more tissues than I did when I had a head cold in Canada.

Sunday 22nd July

Donnis has worsened over the last couple of days. She is so sick she wants to see a doctor in the morning.

Readers may recall when back in April this year I was a driver for the Commonwealth Games. I was socially busy, off and on, before, during and after the games. I was especially busy after The Games, as we were due to fly to Canada for 8 weeks. In the final week of April, my trusty 8 year old Toshiba Satellite Laptop died. I had nursed the laptop through several dramas over the years but this was the worst case of failure yet experienced. Amazingly the 240 Gb Solid State Hard Drive was still good. I replaced the hard drive in a borrowed laptop with my hard drive and went to Canada.

Today I thought I would Synchronise my iTunes on my First Generation iPad released in January 2010. Regretably the iPad can no longer be updated but it is still good to use for music and photo slideshows although like all Apple devices it is a pain to upload anything as you have to use iTunes and the convoluted system they call “user friendly”. I realised that the Desktop I want to Synchronise with iTunes is a blank canvas. There is no music, books, photos or anything. First I have to upload to the Desktop, ALL of my music from a backup hard drive. Then I have to recreate all the Playlists, such as Line Dancing Music, Christmas, Rock and Roll, Australian Music, Party Music and so on. Then, once the playlists are created, music has to be transferred from Music to the Playlist. I can only upload music to the iPad, one folder at a time. So every day from today I am going to upload music to iTunes ready to upload to the iPad. This is a task bigger than Ben Hur and will prove to be tiring. That process will fill up my otherwise unoccupied days.

Duh!

Already it is Wednesday morning of the following week and I still have not published last weeks post and I have not started any notes or diary entries for this week. I will do that later as I am off to Line Dancing first.

]Donnis is still sleeping as she had a rough night with the flu.

Sigh!!!

630. Sunday 15th July 2018. A quiet week at home and some more night photography…

For some reason I did not keep daily notes of what we did this week.

I do recall taking Donnis to an eye specialist one afternoon.

Apart from that the weekdays seem like a blur.

Saturday 14th July

While Donnis went to Christmas in July at the Star Casino with friend Glenda I played bowls in a triples event. As usual I am inconsistent but enjoyed the game.

After dinner I rugged up to brave the cold and drove to the wharf at Broadwater Parklands.

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Multi purpose wharf at Broadwater Parklands, Fisherpeople, photographers, lovers, families enjoy this location which gives fabulous views across the Broadwater to Marina Mirage and Southport Bridge and Surfers Paradise.
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Broadwater Parklands jetty.
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Jetty
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Reverse of jetty.

I am experimenting with night time exposure photography.

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The lights change colour inside the sails but the slightest touch on the camera shutter produces a slight blur. In this case it endows the sails with multiple peaks.
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The sails have changed to purple.

Although some of the results are satisfactory I realise that the initial press of the shutter button is enough to cause a little camera shake and creates the tiniest (sometimes not so tiny) out of sharp focus result.

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Southport bridge end of Surfers Paradise.
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Southport
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Surfers Paradise

I really need a remote shutter device. I had one but had not used it since…well since a few years ago. When I took it from my bag this week the rubber was perished and the device fell apart in my hands.

Sigh!

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Surfers Paradise.

Sunday 15th July

Donnis is feeling the cold and it causes havoc with her sinuses making her sneeze almost constantly. After lunch we went to Mermaid Beach and sat on a blanket on the sand and watched the world go by just enjoying the warmth and the salty air. The water is clean and clear and an amazing 21.5 degrees.

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Burleigh Heads from Mermaid Beach
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Surfing at Mermaid Beach.
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Surfers Paradise seen from Mermaid Beach

After dinner I tried a few more time exposure night shots at Biggera Creek in our village park. Tonight really brought home to me why I need the remote shutter cable. Even a gentle touch on the shutter button, causes blurring.

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I have circle all the camera shake images.

The camera is mounted on a sturdy tripod so I did not expect the results.

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Lands end

629. Sunday 8th July 2018. Wetlands, Kangaroos and night time photography…

Monday 2nd July

Our good friends from Port MacQuarie, Tony and Dawn, arrived today. They are towing their caravan and have just started what will be their epic round Australia voyage of adventure, discovery and self suffiency. We had a wonderful lunch where Tony and Dawn tried to persuade us to buy a motorhome  (again) and join them. While Donnis, on an emotional level, is ready to go, I on a logical level considered all the implications. I would love to continue our travels but several factors tell me NO!

We are staying home- unless of course we win the Lotto over the weekend.

Wednesday 4th July

Not much happening today but I am working on features on my Panasonic Lumix DMC FZ-200 camera. I have been inspired by the photographs on Facebook pages where I am a member. I belong to Australian Outback Photography, Australian Landscape Photography, Picture a Day and Amateur Photography Group. The last two groups are USA based. Digital cameras can take time lapse photos, particularly night time scenes. Tonight, when it was a bit cool I went to our own village park, on Biggera Creek, to experiment.

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High rise units at Lands End on Biggera Creek taken with just a 1/4 second exposure.

Using a tripod to reduce camera shake I took a simple night photo and several rapid fire photos as well as several rapid fire which the camera stitches together to form one composite photo. Finally I set the camera on Night Scene which takes an 8 second exposure. The difference in  results is astounding.

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Same photo with an 8 second exposure.

Thursday 5th July

This afternoon we visited Coomababah Lakeland Conservation Area. This is an area of more than 1200 hectares of wetland, eucalypt forest, salt marsh and mangrove habitat.  These are important coastal wetlands and migratory water bird habitat. The Conservation Area is home to 274 species of animals, with seven species listed as ‘vulnerable’ or ‘near threatened’, including the koala, powerful owl and grey-headed flying fox, along with 24 internationally protected migratory bird species. Of course there is a resident Kangaroo and Wallaby population and that is what we initially came to see.

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Just a small portion of the Kangaroos and Wallabies feeding on late afternoon grass. Groups like this are known as a “mob”.

This magical parcel of land is owned by Gold Coast City Council and is maintained by them although there are no facilities – no toilets, no water and no benches on which to sit and enjoy what is on offer. Mixed in with this natural conservation area is a private airfield, a waste water treatment plant, a bushland nursery, The Pound and an Op Shop. Strangely these do not detract from the conservation area as immediately you enter the trees none of those buildings can be seen. Small aircraft,

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A restored WWI Bi-Plane taxis on the private runway.

including helicopters take off and land all day and none of the birdlife or the Roos seem bothered by it.

We saw people, mostly Asian visitors, wandering amongst the Kangaroos.

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Mother and Joey
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Both can feed off the grass at the same time.

I will add a note of caution here. These are wild animals, used to humans to be sure but still wild animals. They are not tamed in any way and are unpredictable. There are some big buck roos protecting their territory and Does. Getting too close may trigger aggression. These big bucks and I do mean BIG are fighters. They have some very sharp claws in their hands and even bigger claws on their toes which they use in fights. Clearly, many visitors do not read the warning signs.

Today was only a short exploratory walk and we did not see any Koalas but they live high in the trees and sleep most of the day.

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The walk passes through several stands of paperbark (Melaleuca) They can stand wet swampy conditions and are home to a variety of land and marine based creatures. When they flower in Spring the aroma is quite strong. Sweet but pleasant. Bees and bats love the flowering and fruiting trees. I like them too as the bark is generally soft and pliable and has a skin -like “live” feel to it.

We wondered why having lived here three years, in fact almost four years, we did not know this gem existed only about 2 Klms from our home. A fellow driver during the Commonwealth Games told me about the area. Speaking with other locals it was clear many did not know it existed either. However overseas visitors seem to know about it.

Friday 6th July

Today we took friends Marilyn and Barry for a walk through the park. We saw two big bucks having a fight in the middle of the mob.

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Kangaroos shaping up for a fight over???
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They are slapping each other using their front paws.
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Notice this roo is using both front toes in the fight. His body is totally off the ground but supported by his huge tail. The Doe in the foreground appears heavily pregnant and could also be carrying a Joey.

This highlights why it ius not a good idea to approach too closely.

Unfortunately we started our walk a bit late believing we might reach Coombabah Lake and be able to take some sunset photos. We forgot the gates are closed at 6pm so abandoned the rest of the walk.

Saturday 7th July

While I played bowls after lunch Donnis rode the bicycle to Coomababah Lakeland Conservation Area and explored another of the many paths around the area.

We did not win the lotto tonight.

Sigh!

Sunday 8th July.

Can you believe we again went to Coombabah Lakeland today. This time we entered from the western entrance where the pound is located. Donnis loves dogs so we went to the pound. The dogs are well cared for and exercised regularly but their kennels are isolated from each other and are all concrete. It just seems a little stark and clinical but is also easy to clean. Dogs are a bit thoughtless with their bowel and urinary habits so the kennels need to be washed out each day.

Cats on the other hand do their business in litter bins. All nice and tidy and easy to clean. They also live in 5 star luxury hotel units with lots of toys and climbing posts and shelves high off the ground and nice carpets to lay around on. They also have time out garden villas shared with another feline also on holidays as well as private rooms for some time alone. Dogs bark and growl and jump around threateningly protecting what they think is theirs. Cats strut around their kingdom knowing their servants…humans…will protect their domain.

Overall we were impressed with the dedication shown by staff and care volunteers.

After dragging Donnis from the pound we went on the boardwalk through mangroves to a bird hide on Coombabah Lake. Today was not much good for birdlife and at low tide I expected to see lots of crabs. Today they were elsewhere.

WE then drove to the Eastern entrance and enjoyed the Kangaroo Trail again.

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This is a big buck. When stands up and leans back on his tail he is well over 2 metres tall. Enlarge the photo to see the huge centre toe on his foot. It is a dangerous weapon as are the sharp claws on his hands.

Tonight I drove behind the Gold Coast Art Gallery on the bank of the Nerang River to experiment with time exposure night scenes of Surfers Paradise.

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Surfers Paradise including Q1 Building and taken on an 8 second exposure.
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Q1 Building. 8 second exposure

I thought I had chosen the time well. There was no breeze, it is Sunday night so I did not expect any boats to stir up the water. I expected a perfect still water to reflect the lights as a mirror image. I forgot about the tide which sort of ruffled the mirror image a little. Nonetheless I am pleased with the result.

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Eight second time exposure of Surfers Paradise. Note the slight ruffling of the waters surface and detracting from what might have been a prefect mirror image.
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Same image but only a quarter second exposure.

 

628. Sunday 1st July 2018. One BIG event this week. We are HOME!!!

Monday 25th June

Our last day in Vancouver. I suppose you could call it a “lay day”.

Basically we didn’t do nuffin.

Well, we did go to Jericho Beach for Poppy the French Bulldog to run around.

After dinner Doug n Linda drove us to Vancouver Airport to begin the process of coming home. Getting  booked on our flight was reasonably easy considering every domestic flight with Air Canada produced unwanted surprises.

Next comes getting through security. There seems to be no easy time for this process. Line up and wait. Remove belt, coins, glasses and mobile phone. Take the laptop out of its snug protective carry bag. Walk through the scanner then find what belongs to you and pack it away again. For the first time since arriving in Canada I have not been called aside for additional checks and questioning. After 15 minutes we are finally in the terminal and find a comfortable seat, near the flight gate and settle down for the 2 hour wait to be called.

The 15 hour flight home was just as I expected. Donnis slept most of the way and I watched 3 movies. While in the aircraft toilet, about 4 hours into the flight I heard a noise like somebody having a fit and heard a thump. I thought it was the adjoining toilet and intended to call the hostess. When I opened the door a woman was on the floor outside the door, passed out and attendants were umm err attending.  Shortly the Captain announced there was a ”medical situation”. Was there a doctor or nurse on the flight? A nurse came from cattle class, just like us while a doctor came from up front, business class. After awhile, they revived the woman and took blood sugar samples and she was helped forward.

We arrived 7.30am and suddenly it was Wednesday morning. We skipped Tuesday. The food on the flight was OK but not something I would order in a restaurant. It was filling, timely and slightly warm – no chance anybody will scald themselves. Same goes for the tea and coffee. Only warm enough so that it can be drunk quickly without much taste. Flavour was something which must have been left on the ground. We were given some French Wine with dinner. I did not like it and thank goodness I had an aisle seat near the toilets. How can coffee be made to taste tasteless? Donnis claims she knows the secret to make it tasty. Dump two of the little Half and Half servings into the coffee. It now tastes even less like coffee but at least has some taste. (Half and Half is a UHT type milk/cream combination much favoured in Canada and the US. They are often called coffee creamers, it can also be purchased fresh in various sizes)minimoo

Home at last. Skytrain to Helensvale then bus to Harbour Town. The bus driver must have been trained in Vancouver! He could not wait for passengers to get to their seats before accelerating and passengers grab for anything to save being thrown along the bus. I walked home, drove the car to collect Donnis and the luggage where she was waiting at Harbour Town bus stop. An hour later I was in bed sleeping the sleep of the innocent. At least for two hours. I guess innocence left while I was sleeping.

Since arriving home we have been to the beach several times and walked on clean white sand in water still around 21° and able to breath the lovely salt laden humid air. My sinuses cleared within a day.

It was a wonderful holiday, visiting family, seeing the sights but it was time to come home. Now we can start looking at local adventures again.

In the meantime we are both still tired.

See you next week.

 

627. Sunday 24th June 2018. Our last day in Canada, Dragon Boats, a couple of Brickbats and a good bunch of bouquets…

Sunday 24th June.

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Known as the Trans Am Totem in Downtown Vancouver. Erected in 2015 it is part of the Vancouver Biennale Public Art Exhibition.

Today we went downtown to watch the Annual Dragon Boat Races. Two hundred teams from all over the world competed. Held on the bay at an area called Creekside Park. Today was final day of competition and we were surprised to hear a call asking for competitors in race 90 to assemble. Race 90? Wow! Racing began at 8am and commenced every 11 minutes. Teams were organised into several staging area’s and would move from one to another until they reached the racing pontoon when a Dragon Boat was assigned to a team.

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Final staging area. Teams assemble here to await a Dragon Boat as they arrive from the previous race. As they paddle away, those in another staging area move onto the pontoon.
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I never saw this at Outrigger Canoe Racing where nobody wore a life vest. Here they are compulsory. Competitors grab a vest and join the first staging area in those tents in the background

Crowds of people came to support their team or like us, just came out of curiosity and to be part of an event.

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I have no idea if the are celebrating a win or just being a happy team.

Not having any connection to these racers it was hard to garner enthusiasm for the races but it was great to be a part of the spectacle and given my previous history with International Outrigger Canoe Racing I know the amount of time and effort that goes into planning such an event.

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The race is over and a winner declared.
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On the way to the start line. You can see the BC Stadium in the background.
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While race is on the many water taxi’s have to wait then rush in to drop off and pick up passengers. Mostly those passengers will go to False Creek and the Granville Island Markets.

I did manage to speak with one of the racers from an Australian team, the Maroochy Sea Serpents. He was very excited his team had won a medal.

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and the winner is…
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Winners are Grinners and also tired.

In an event of this nature there were lots of food concessionaires, give- away promotional booths, and free entertainment.

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Crowded Creekside Park

Thousands attended and it seems that as the weather began to turn and the first raindrops began to fall they were all, just like us, more interested in getting home without getting rained on.

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A dragon winds it way through the crowds.
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I like this Dragon because the people are on Unicycles.

The location is picturesque within the bay of course but the Telus World of Science Building is located here and unfortunately we never got to visit.

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The Telus World of Science . I really wanted to visit this place but we simply did not have the time. Perhaps we should have used one of or lay days and bus passes.

Telus is one of the major telecommunications companies in Canada. The system they use for their products – like all the other Telco’s – ensures Canadian users are kept hostage to limited coverage, high prices and take it or leave it attitude. I have written about Telus in a prior post so will not expand any further here.

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This Dinosaur was built from scrap materials to highlight the need to recycle.
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Tellus Science World across the Bulrush Garden. Did I mention I wanted to visit?

Across the bay is BC Place which is home to BC Lions American Football games, BC Whitecaps Football (Soccer) Club  and is also used as an indoor/outdoor concert venue. The roof can be closed completely.

Nearby is Rogers Stadium, home of the Vancouver Canucks Ice Hockey Team and is also a concert venue. It is fully enclosed. The amazing story about this CAN $160 million building is that it was built between 3 very busy motorways, high-rise apartments and an elevated railway. Sceptics said a 53,500 seat stadium could not be built in the space available. They were wrong and the building was completed in 1989.

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Who was most excited?
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The conversation went something like this. “I’m tired, bored. my bum is numb from sitting on this rock and rain is on its way. Waddya say we get everyone together, pack up and head home”. The reply was “Count me in”. Besides I was a passenger and the alternative was to find my own way home by bus.

As we wind down to our final days and contemplate our flight to OZ at midnight tomorrow, we also take time to reflect and thank those who contributed to our amazing travels.

BOUQUETS

Fred and Peggy of White Rock who gave of their time and organised for us to stay at their unit, travel by bus on a guided tour of Vancouver and looked after us as family. At a time when I faced no ability to charge the camera battery (I left my charger in OZ) Fred stepped forward and organised a universal charger. As well they picked us up from Vancouver Airport while Doug was being checked for a heart condition at the hospital. Their generosity will always be remembered and appreciated.

Amtrak who through no fault of their own delivered us to Chicago 12 hours late and we missed our connection. At 2am they organised a taxi to and from the station and overnight accommodation at the Swiss Hotel, plus meal vouchers at the station. Of all the stations throughout the USA, Chicago was the best place to be delayed. We had access to their First Class Passenger lounge and all the facilities on offer. Those facilities included food and drink – including passable coffee, comfortable lounge chairs, tables and chairs WiFi, power outlets and TV. There are only 6 such lounges throughout their network.

The very helpful desk manager at Wyndham Hotel at Niagara Falls who cancelled one night of our stay when we arrived 24 hours late and organised and paid our bus fare to Toronto out of her own credit card. Yes we paid her in cash in US dollars.

Alecia and Tyler at Prince Edward Island, particularly Alecia on her 10 days off shift organised sightseeing, adventures and a wonderful east coast experience. The road trip for all of us to Nova Scotia and Cape Breton Island was a great time and Alecia can take a bow for her organisational skills. It is not such an easy task to research places to stay for 5 people with a reasonable tariff as well as find laces to eat with food suitable for varied diets and again at reasonable cost.

In Calgary, we stayed with Joan and often had use of her truck and visited Andrea and Brett who had barbecues at their house along with visits to Heritage Park and Calgary Zoo. Unfortunately Joan has to work so was unable to join us in all our activities.

Simone and Lazar who organised the use of Simones Audi and their sightseeing adventures at Golden and Kicking Horse Mountain. As well, the meals, accommodation, sightseeing adventures and generous hospitality by Maia and Ivan at their mountain retreat in the Rocky Mountains was a wonderful several days and we truly thank the four of them. They all made us feel part of their family.

In Vancouver Linda and Doug allowed us to stay at their house while we were getting ready for Amtrak and again when we arrived the second time. Despite their busy schedule they arranged for visits around Vancouver and a trip to Poulsbo in the USA. Our car trip with Linda and the children to a game park was lots of fun. I am sure Linda would not have enjoyed her day as much if she had to drive the game park. I was happy to drive through and around animals and obstacles.

Thank you to Jessica and John in Poulsbo for their hospitality as well, since they have an even busier schedule. Johns mother Ruth also chipped in with a visit to towns we would not otherwise have seen.

BRICKBATS.

Along with all the thank you’s there were also times when things just did not happen as they should.

Amtrak gets a nod as having the worst train journey from Chicago to Buffalo. In fact the train continued on to New York city. I can only hope the track improved as it got closer to the Big Apple.The journey was mostly at night and was on a rough track and the train rocked, rattled and rolled and the trains horn blew at every level crossing.  Our room was much smaller than on the Empire Builder from Seattle to Chicago. As such the beds were smaller and less comfortable as well as difficult to get into and out of.  Sleep was near impossible even for Donnis. We were left exhausted. On arrival at Buffalo NY while waiting for a connecting train we slept on the bench in the Buffalo station. You have to be very tired to do that.

The less than helpful desk manager at Super 8 Motel at Mississauga (Toronto). Maybe there was a language barrier but his idea of good food differs greatly from ours. He indicated there were no nearby places within walking distance for dinner and unless we took a taxi we would be better off using the Chinese Dining Room next door. In fact the Chinese was closed and all that was available was a dried buffet offering at the garage. Later we discovered a Tim Hortons and a Subway were across the highway. Both would have provided a better meal within a 5 minute walk.

Air Canada gets a thumbs down for the domestic flights booking arrangements. Their advertised price is for getting on the plane. Getting a seat allocated is another cost and just when you think you have it all paid for they charge $27.50 per bag. As well, their on-line check in to include baggage costs will only accept credit cards issued by US or Canadian banks. That does not make sense as they accept other cards to pay for booking a flight and seat allocation.

The bank manager and staff at RBC Royal Bank Dunbar branch receives a big thumbs down, they have no idea about how credit and debit cards work in their ATM’s. Instead of getting help and information the manager chose to make up a story that our card would not work in their ATM. He needs a few lessons in service and understanding about the banking system.

Our trip through the USA and Canada was exciting, exilerating, fun, busy and tiring. We have enjoyed ourselves immensely but are ready for home.

Tomorrow midnight begins our long flight home.