Author: frankeeg

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?

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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.

584. Wednesday 27th December 2017. Fly to Sydney for Christmas…

It has been a busy week with lots happening and many photographs. Too much to put into one blog post. Therefore I will break the week into easier to handle and edit posts.

Monday 25th December Christmas Day 2017.

Of all the days of the year and in all the places you do not want a glitch to happen.

It happened to me.

Me!

Me!

A person of precise, ordered, organised, planned habits who likes control in his life. Today I had a derailment.

Let me tell you it is not a nice thing to happen. The forces of chaos and stupor spread their little tendrils across this day and slammed into me like one carriage at a time to ensure today went right off the tracks. That is until some sort of clarity and sanity was restored, I think it was anyway, some hours later when I could laugh along with everybody else.

Ho Ho Ho.

What are you talking about FrankieG?

It really started last night when, as planned, I lay my head down to sleep somewhat earlier than usual as I had set the alarm for 5 am. Ever since I was a small boy I have trouble sleeping on the Eve of a big event such as going on family holidays or Christmas or a birthday. Later in life it was any event where I have to set an alarm. Alarms keep me awake. Tonight was no different. I hardly slept. I spent more time in a recliner watching TV or reading a book. By 4.30 am I was wide awake dressed and ready for the day. After a walk around the block and breakfast I filled in time until our bags were packed and we were ready to go. The bags were placed in i30 and as a final check I placed my bum bag containing mobile phone, wallet, money, credit card, NSW Opal train, bus and ferry card and some USB sticks I had prepared for sister Sandra and stepson Errol on the floor of the car. I drove to our friends Graham and Wencke who were coming with us to Coolangatta Airport.

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Amazing. Airports all over Australia are busy on Christmas Day. Seven AM at Coolangatta Airport is n o exception. This airport is ranked as the 6th busiest airport in Australia which puts it ahead of Canberra (Australian Capitol),Hobart and Darwin. It is the busiest regional airport especially as it includes International flights.

They would drive the i30 back home, place it in the garage, lock the garage and hand the remote control to another neighbour. Graham and Wencke are also going away. The drive to the airport was easy with little traffic and we arrived in plenty of time to book in for our flight to Sydney. After removing our suitcases we bid farewell to our friends and went to the ticket counter, where, as expected we needed to show ID. No problem I have mine right here in the bum bag…..YIKES! which is still on the floor of i30 heading away from the airport.

Aaaaarrgh!!!

Easy I thought. We can solve this quickly. We used Donnis phone to call Wencke and ask them to turn around and bring our bag back. After all they would only be a Klm or two away so turning around would be no problem. We rang and rang and rang Wencke’s phone but no answer. It would be another half hour or so before they arrived home and another hour perhaps before they could return to the airport. We were travelling standby and were guaranteed seats on the 8am flight but after that we may miss any other flights. The staff kindly agreed to allow us on the flight without my ID. Finally we called G & W at home and explained the bum bag. They had not carried their mobile phone with them. They agreed to post the bag to us when the post office next opens. Whenever that will be.

It was not until we arrived in Sydney when my sister suggested I should have called my own phone. Graham and Wencke would have heard it ring on the floor of i30. I have a unique ring tone, Elvis Presley singing Jailhouse Rock. It is not something easy to ignore. Grrr! Hindsight is great but when you are in a panic it is hard to think quickly and clearly.

It took me a long time to settle down and accept the situation. A situation over which I had no control.

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Our Airbus A320 awaits us.

Our seats were over the wing and as such beside the emergency exit doors. WE and the people in the row ahead of us are expected to help crew in an emergency by opening the escape hatch. The quiet soft spoken steward explained what was expected of us. We could not hear so he started again. Once that was sorted out the people on the other side of the aisle said they could not hear either. His rolling eyes and sigh of annoyance  was quite loud.

Hmmm! There were no hostesses on this flight. They were all male stewards or Flight Attendants as they are now known.

Arriving in Sydney we were shocked by the change in weather. From a beautiful sunny day on the Gold Coast with an expected 31 degrees to an overcast and drizzly cold day of around 18 degrees and a chill wind blowing from the south.

Thanks to Bev and Pete who offered to pick us up at the airport and take us to Petes brothers house at Campbelltown for Christmas lunch. After the tribulation at the airport it was calming sitting with Petes family and talking about whatever people talk about on Christmas Day. One brother Steve, fell asleep in a recliner after lunch while I looked longingly at another recliner but we had to get back on the road. Bev and Pete had to pick up their son Mitchell and take him to the airport to fly to Melbourne. He is an Air Traffic Controller at Melbourne Airport.

By the time we arrived at Bev and Petes house I was mentally drained and overtired and fell asleep within minutes.

Wednesday 27th December

Today is the first day my left behind bum bag can be mailed. The Post Office has been closed the last 4 days. The bag was mailed and we have a tracking number. At the moment all our travel plans are on hold until the mail catches up with us.

Sigh!

While waiting for Ken to arrive by train from Newcastle Bev, Pete, Donnis and I drove to Pleasure Grounds at Como on the Georges River. The original single line railway bridge, between Oatley and Como was opened on Boxing Day 1885. Twin 60CM water pipes were attached on outriggers in 1935 in order to pump water from Woronora Dam to Penshurst Reservoir.

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The original single lane railway bridge over the Georges River linking Como with Oatley. The new dual carriageway can be seen in the background with Como Marina to the bottom left.
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The bridge is narrow, just enough room for a railway carriage with no room to spare.

Gradually the single line became busy and bottlenecks occurred so a new twin line bridge was opened in 1935. Instead of demolishing the original bridge it was kept open for bicycle and foot traffic as well as to continue the water pumping, It is a reasonably short walk from the Oatley Railway station to Como Railway Station. A Cricket ground, picnic area, swimming pool and tidal pool

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Swimming enclosure at Como on the Georges River.

and marina are located on this point of land known as Como Pleasure Grounds.

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Part of the Como Pleasure Grounds is this huge jumble of sandstone rocks. This has been a source of fun activities climbing and hiding for children for over 100 years. Oh and some older adults like to climb the rocks as well. Umm err including yours truly.

It is a delightful area with lots of older houses and many buildings and walls made from my favourite, Sydney Sandstone.

The historic Como Hotel sits high on a hill overlooking the cricket and sports ground and the Georges River.

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Como Hotel

The iconic Australian Poet and short story,  writer, Henry Lawson, lived nearby in the early 1900’s and he was known to frequent the Como Hotel. In fact he frequented many hotels.

A busy coffee shop

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Cafe at Como overlooking the Georges River

sits above a freshwater swimming pool which itself sits above a tidal pool.

Coming up, the Bondi to Coogee Clifftop Walk.

583. Sunday 24th December 2017. Christmas Eve. Have a Happy Christmas everybody…

No photos this week.

Thursday 21st December

We went to see the latest Star Wars movie in the Titan Extreme theatre. This theatre which is lined with multiple levels of Dolby Speakers make the walls, floor and even the seats vibrate with a sound sensation. We saw the last episode about a year ago and although it was in 3D I was disappointed. This episode sort of carries on where the other left off. It seems the only two of the 8 episodes which appear as consecutive and therefore a cohesive story line is meant to explain the plot. It didn’t. I felt it was confusing. That said, in the overall scheme of things it probably does not matter as the action is almost non -stop and there is no time to worry about plot. Granted there were moments where we said “waddid they say” or “where did he or she come from” or “what was that all about?” The action just rolled along and kept us satisfied. It was good to see Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), older, wiser and seemingly lost but in charge. Sadly Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) made a final appearance before her death early this year followed by her mother, Debbie Reynolds a week later. For me there is a new hero – heroine actually but in this new non gender world, hero will do – introduced, a short chubby Asian lady playing the part of Rose Tico. She steals all the scenes where she appears. She shows what an infectious smiling face with gritty determination can do for a movie to lighten the action from time to time.

Saturday 23rd December

We drove our friends Marilyn and Barry to Broadbeach where they will spend Christmas with their family. We stopped for coffee and a snack at a local upmarket eatery. Beachside Pavillion. Whew! What prices. $65 for 4 coffees, two croissants and a banana bread. I guess the rent must be pretty high. We heard from a good source the staff  have an 8 hour shift. That means 8 hours with no break. The food was nothing special and the coffee arrived at a temperature which annoys me. Warm. Not HOT!

Sunday 24th December Christmas Eve

The social club arranged a Carols in our Park overlooking Biggera Creek. We spent an hour this morning setting up chairs and our sound system in readiness. First we met at the Clubhouse at 6.30 and walked the streets playing music via my iPad and speaker system handing out chocolates and reminding people to come to the carols.

About 30 residents turned up for the carols. That’s not a bad result considering many residents are away at this time of year or had dinner or weekends with family.

Tomorrow, Christmas Day, we will be up early to drive to Coolangatta Airport for an 8am flight to Sydney. After arriving in Sydney we have a mystery week not knowing where we will be day to day.

Expect lots of photos and stories next week.

Merry Christmas to all.

582. Sunday 17th December 2017. A Christmas Dinner…

Monday 11th December

I now have my work schedule as a driver for the Commonwealth Games in 2018.

Apart from training sessions in January and February I will be driving dignitaries, officials  athletes and their families in March and April.

Friday 15th December

Planning for our Christmas and New Year continues but nothing has yet been set in concrete. Will we fly to Sydney and possibly to Melbourne or will we simply drive to Sydney?  If we drive will we go the extra couple of thousand Klms to Melbourne and beyond at the hottest most humid time of the year when people and school children are on holidays and bullet proof teenagers with a new licence are just discovering booze and drugs before they start work? This is not my favourite time of year for long distance driving.

Our friends Tony and Dawn from Port Macquarie called in on their way to Mackay. We enjoyed a lovely lunch right here in our villa before waving them goodbye on the next leg of their journey.

Saturday 16th December

Once again we filled an entire week of doing something in and around the house which did not involve travel.

The village social committee, of which I am a member, have planned a Christmas Dinner here in our clubhouse. Tonight was the night. Dinner was catered for by The Spit Roast catering Company   http://goldcoastcatering.com.au/   . This is the second time this year they have catered for us. They are professional and provide good food, with good servings and sufficient for seconds along with dessert. They bring everything themselves then pack up and are gone and leaving us to get on with our night. We had 80 people arrive for dinner, while not a record, the numbers are on the increase after a lull in the last few years.

We had a great night of good food, good company, good music, singing and dancing and was a Christmas dinner the way a dinner should be.

Fun.

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Sometimes I think I need some sort of help when changing settings on the camera. I set the camera to indoors night setting with flash. I forgot to return the camera back to “camera” mode. All my photos were taken in settings mode. Grrr! they are either washed out with too much light or unfocussed.

581. Sunday 10th December 2017. A quiet week of cooking…

Christmas is rushing up to meet us. We have a Christmas morning tea to organise in the clubhouse next Thursday. A new specialist supermarket has opened next door and the owner will be our guest speaker.

Next Saturday we have a catered Christmas dinner in the clubhouse. We have 75 people already booked for that event. A dozen new folding tables arrived today. Just in time for the dinner next week.

Christmas Eve we have a planned Carols by Candlelight in our park beside the creek.

We have spent the week pretty much at home doing whatever it is that we do around the home. We play bowls, table tennis, indoor bowls, line dancing and swimming.I also do my bike riding.

The weather has been a mix of hot days with cool nights or rainy days with cooler nights.

There has not been any Commonwealth Games Training this week so instead I have been doing a little cooking. Hmmm! Maybe that’s a lot of cooking.

Over the years I have made a Zucchini Loaf which is delicious and seems to get eaten too quickly.

Recently I tried making a concoction using cooked brown rice and cooked red lentils with a capsicum sauce. Wow that sauce was a lot of effort for very little return. The rice lentil mixture was meant to be shaped into balls and baked with the sauce drizzled over the top when serving. I followed the recipe faithfully (it seemed like I was in the kitchen all afternoon – in fact I was) but the mixture seemed too crumbly to hold together in balls. Instead I put the mixture in a square pie dish and baked it like a flat loaf. A sort of rice lentil bread. It was tasty but seemed to be lacking – something. A week later I tried again this time adding some grated zucchini and two eggs. Now this was more like it but it was just a little too moist and still crumbly, not holding together like a loaf.

Hmmm! I thought. How can I improve on this?

So this week I tried again. I still kept the basic ingredients of brown rice and lentils, then added a grated carrot. I also grated a zucchini but sprinkled it generously with salt and left it for 20 minutes to draw out the moisture then squeezed it through muslin. I added that to the mix along with grated parmesan cheese and panko breadcrumbs. I cooked up an onion and three cloves of garlic in curry powder with pepper and salt and added that and three eggs to the mix. Instead of putting it in a blender as the recipe stated I used a mixmaster on very basic slow blend. The mix was now a bit like a thick cake batter. I lined a square pie dish with paper and poured in the mix. I sprinkled the top with a tomato relish, more grated cheese and panko breadcrumbs. A few slices of tomato from our garden sat on top.  Then into the oven at 200 degrees Celsius for 15 minutes, turned the pan around for another 15 minutes and a toothpick inserted in the middle came out clean. I let it “rest” for about 10 minutes then cut into squares and served. Yummo. This is a winner. However next time I will add some peas and maybe some chopped cooked bacon. Serve bigger slices and a salad and you have a delicious satisfying meal. Serve smaller slices as a sort of replacement for potato.

While in the mood I made some coconut and cherry muffins. Donnis had bought a box of Australian cherries for $5 and after she pitted most of them, froze some, glaced` some and let me have some for the muffins. We also had a nice glass of cherry juice. The muffins have such a nice taste and texture. I sprinkled them with icing sugar. Froze some and will have the rest between us with our morning coffee.

Donnis also bought a box of mango’s for $5. Hmmm! I feel a recipe coming on. This time it will be a mango and coconut muffin. I will use the same recipe but replace the cherries with chopped mango. We will also make a mango syrup and serve with thick cream as dessert when friends come to visit next week

Our freezer is now at capacity with all the extra frozen fruit. Did I mention Donnis also bought a box of Strawberry’s for $5 last week. She blanched and froze most of them. While I am on the subject she also bought a box of Bluberries – you guessed it, she paid $5 – and they are also in the freezer.

See you later. I have to go and whip up a couple of storms in the kitchen.

580. Sunday 3rd December 2017. The Broadwater, Commandos, Travel plans, Driver Training and Eternity…

Thursday 28th November

Had one of our happy walks along the beach of The Broadwater from Labrador to Lands End. As usual there is always something to see amongst the hundreds of water craft plying or anchored there.

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We would not like to be aboard this basic houseboat in a strong wind.
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This yacht aground on the beach is a classic example of the old saying. When the depth of water is less than the depth of the keel.

Something which really caught my eye was  boat built /owned/ used by Commando Knights a family of tight knit pseudo  idealists. I have written about the Commando Knights in previous posts on this blog. For example post 467 in December 2014 and again in 548 in April 2017. In both cases the small, almost fully enclosed floating fortress was supplemented by a larger floating fortress. Today, what we saw beached on Wave Break Island was a huge dormitory sized floating fortress. Have a look at this fortress which still appears to be in a state of building. It seems to be built a catamaran platform of some type. Apart from that the structure seems to make no sense at all.

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The Commabdo Knights have been busy these last few months. I have no idea what all the extra timbver is for but it must serve a purpose…at least in somebody’s mind.

Then again, the Commando Knights may know something the rest of us do not. Have a look at this You Tube video, professionally produced by the Tanton Family. These people are serious.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=75RSmaJMzQs

Brett Tanton who is the proclaimed General of a family of eight, seems to have some military training and is perhaps a member of the Queensland Police based on the Gold Coast.

Interesting.

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This houseboat is owned and cobbled together by a single woman who loves (Oh really?) and keeps them onboard. They have nowhere to go except under the netting.
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Zoom in and look closely and you can see at least one large turkey and a large duck or goose or swan.

Saturday 2nd December

Donnis and I have been researching travel plans for May 2018 after the Commonwealth Games are completed. The original plan was a cruise aboard Norwegian Cruise Lines ship Norwegian Jewel for 20 days. The cruise would have commenced in Yokohama Japan, another 5 Japanese ports, then on to Petropavovsk, Kamchatka, Russia. From there it was a cruise across the Bering Sea to Anchorage, (Seward actually) Alaska, a further 6 Alaskan ports and finally finish in Seattle USA. We would spend a few days in Seattle then train to Vancouver, fly to Calgary for a few days then fly to the east coast and spend 10 days in Prince Edward Island exploring PEI and Newfoundland before driving across Canada to Calgary, Vancouver and fly home. Wow! We would have been busy for 6 weeks and the budget was being stretched tissue thin but if we do not enjoy ourselves now we may not have another opportunity. Having decided, we asked for a final quote and cabin assignment. The email reply was encouraging until we found the US /Australia exchange rate has declined in the last few weeks. Worse than that was the original prices quoted was a teaser. US taxes of almost US$1,000 were added to the quote. Add to that the $13 per person per day compulsory tipping, shore excursion costs, air fare to Japan and overnights while waiting to board the ship and the possibility of $500 or more to obtain a Russian Visa, the tissue paper split. It simply pushed the budget beyond our limits. It was a difficult decision to cancel the trip especially as this was a maiden voyage for this ship on this route and a first time port of call to Petropavovsk.

We are now looking a different plan but like all plans it requires some research which takes time.

Hmmm! A train journey from Seattle across the USA to Albany spread over three days sounds interesting.

Sunday 3rd December

The Gold Coast Commonwealth Games are drawing closer. Today I attended, along with 2,370 other excited people, the first Role Specific Training course for drivers.031217 training031217 training2

Back in 2015 volunteers for the 2018 Commonwealth Games were called for. Along with another 55,000 or so other hopefuls, I applied. Gradually those numbers were whittled down to manageable thousands. Some 15,000 people wanted to be drivers. I attended the first selection interview process, which at the time had 4,500 people interviewed. All agreed to a Police and background check. All the approved volunteers, 5,000 of us, for all the various tasks, attended one of three sessions at the Gold Coast Convention Centre. I attended the second session on Sunday 12th November and now all the drivers will begin to attend role or location specific training between now and April when the games begin. Mostly the drivers look to be an able bodied group although I was surprised to see a number of people who were clearly grossly overweight, walked with difficulty or with a cane or in one case, in a wheelchair. I can only wonder how these people will cope driving dignitaries around the Gold Coast and Brisbane for up to 12 hours.

The event was very well produced, fast paced, interesting, lots of loud music. Enthusiasm bubbled and boiled out of the crowd. 031217 training1

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The local Indigenous community Youth Choir

Once again I am disappointed I did not bring my good camera. Once we start training and driving I should have plenty of spaces to carry all my things I need. Including the camera. Unfortunately either the mobile phone camera is not sufficient megapixels or I cannot hold the phone steady enough for decent photos.

Now let’s see 2,300 people leave the stadium in an orderly fashion. The coffee booth was closed. The tea and coffee and biscuits tables were cleared away. I waited behind, believing it was easier to read my Kindle and let the crowds sort themselves out. Below the stadium over 1,000 cars were all trying to squeeze out of one entrance only to be slowed by traffic lights which had not been co-ordinated to allow for peak traffic. Only 6 cars at a time were getting through the lights. This was the first sign of chaos I have seen in the organisational skills of the GOLDOC. (Gold Coast Commonwealth Games Organisation Committee). Somebody forgot traffic control and forgot to organise the traffic lights as if it was another big sports day. Eventually a second exit from the underground parking was opened but that traffic still had to merge with the cars coming out of the first exit! It took one and a half hours for me to get out of the car park. Good thing I stayed in my car, engine off and read my Kindle.

Now comes co-incidence and nostalgia time.

Earlier in the week I heard a radio interview on ABC’s Conversations with Richard Fidler. The interview was with Roy Williams, Co-author of a book about the Eternity Man, Arthur Stace. (1885 – 1967) Arthur wrote one word, ETERNITY, in a bold copperplate handwriting style on footpaths around inner suburbs of Sydney.

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This is the Eternity written inaluminium at the Wall of Water at Sydney Town Hall.

Mostly the word was written with chalk, sometimes in crayon. As a child and as a teenager, I recall seeing ETERNITY written on the footpath. My recollection is it was always written in yellow chalk or crayon. Until 1962 the identity of ETERNITY man was unknown.

Coincidence No1.

Later in the day I was listening to some music by Australian Singer Songwriter, Russell Morris. A song from his album, Sharkmouth, a song I had not yet heard, suddenly caught my attention. I heard the words and it was about Mr Eternity. Sung in Russell Morris distinctive style it instantly grabbed my attention. This is a brilliant piece of local Sydney history put to music with attention getting lyrics. Russel Morris you have done it again. I am hooked.

Co-incidence No2.

This evening, we were driving home from Brisbane. What were we doing in Brisbane? That is another story. Anyway we were tuned to the ABC when The Spirit of Things presented by Dr Rachael Kohn began. The story opened with a song by Jim Low and within the first two lines I knew it was about Mr Eternity. A different song to Russel Morris but just as deeply moving and full of history. Rachael Kohn also interviewed Roy Williams.

Co-incidence No3.

In the interview they drove around parts of Sydney where Arthur Stace lived, worked, worshipped and wrote ETERNITY. They stopped at a house in Redfern where Arthur and his wife Pearl lived for about 12 years, The house is tiny in a tiny lane called Arthur Lane just off Moorehead St.

My Aunt Gwen lives in Moorehead St just a few houses away!!!

Co-incidence No4.

I also recall seeing a dedication to ETERNITY during the New Years Fireworks when 1999 became 2000. Sydney Harbour Bridge was lit by fireworks which spelled ETERNITY. Later in the year during the Sydney Olympic Games opening ceremony a mock- up of Sydney Harbour Bridge with one word, ETERNITY, emblazoned on it was paraded around the arena.

So, for over twenty five years, from 1930 to 1956, Sydney-siders woke each day to a city that had already been visited by a phantom of the night. A phantom, that was to become the most famous graffiti artist in Australia’s history. For there on the footpaths, on the train station platforms and on the many walkways that linked the city’s buildings was that one word Eternity, etched so beatifically with yellow crayon in the fine copperplate lettering style. 

Where it came from, how it got there, what it meant and who was behind this phenomenon was a mystery to all. The mystery turned to fascination and eventually obsession. For decades leading newspapers and letters to the editor debated who or what was behind the mysterious appearance of the word Eternity each morning. It was an enigma, a one-word sermon that had Sydney columnists speculating often about the author. But in spite of the intense interest, the author remained a phantom for those 25 years.

Today, there are only three public places left in Sydney where you can still see Arthur’s Stace’s Eternity.

(1) You can still see a faded version inside the largest bell at the  Old Sydney Post Office on Martin Place. Written in about 1963, the ‘i’ has almost vanished, but the word ‘Eternity’ can still be seen.

(2) It was memorialized by Architect Ridley Smith in the re-design of Sydney Square beside the Sydney Town Hall. When it was unveiled at the foot of the Wall of Water feature on the 13 July 1977, The Sydney Morning Herald published: “In letters almost 21cm (8in) high is the famous copperplate message Eternity. The one word sermon gleams in wrought aluminium. There’s no undue prominence. No garish presentation. Merely the simple Eternity on pebbles as Arthur Stace would have wanted it.” Interestingly Ridley Smith was the son of missionary parents serving with the China Inland Mission. His father named his son Ridley because of his great respect for evangelist John Ridley, the very preacher whose words turned Arthur Stace into Mr. Eternity

(3) At the foot of his grave in the Botany Cemetery is his trademark etching in marble of his own special version of Eternity.

This ‘birdlike little man with wispy white hair’, Stace has become known as ‘the Eternity Man’, and is enshrined as one of the characters of Sydney. Others have taken Arthur’s Eternity and given it new life.