Pancakes, Rocks and Blow Holes

January 19, 2009

After spending a night at the mosquito infested Lake Rotoroa, we continued South through Westport, and stopped at the Pancake Rocks & Blow Holes near Panakaiki.

The pictures explain the name, but for those interested in the exciting world of geology, the pancakes are caused by layers of sediment that has been compacted, compressed, and pushed up through the surface over millions of years. The softer ‘mud’ layers have slowly eroded away (the syrup) leaving the harder layers (the pancakes). I guess the blow holes would be the blueberries. Quite worth the stop, and on a good tidal day like we had, the blow holes are very impressive indeed.

New Zealand, like Australia has some wonderfully unique signs. Sarah tells me her father would have appreciated this one to be used in Redmond Washington. Watch out for those train tracks Mark!

Speaking of mosquitos, have you ever watched a grown woman jump from one end of a campervan to the other and back again, while swatting at the air with one hand, smacking the windows with the other, while her wild eyes dart around the enclosure like a cat on speed chasing a laser wall pointer? It’s pretty funny.

Oh and "Puke" is not a great name for a pub… but we had to stop.

We finish this photo journey with some pix of the Franz Joseph Glasier and the gorgeous view from our campervan at another free spot at Cameron Flats along the Haast Pass.

Check out the photos!


Nelson, Driving, a Birthday Crown, and more Driving

January 18, 2009

Over the next few days Sarah and I headed up and over the North end of the South island. Taking the beautiful ‘scenic’ drive from Picton to Havelock and then over to Nelson on Tasman Bay, up hwy 60 to Takaka and Farewell Spit and then back to Takaka for my birthday and a few failed attempts at climbing…

Nelson, while considerably different from our own, lived up to it’s namesake in strange adventure. We’d decided to stay a few nights in the local "party hostel" to enjoy their pool, and absorb some of the towns, er, character. We witnessed "hostel olympics", in which athletes competed in such events as "jump in the pool while holding a huge excercise ball and land on it without falling in", "re-program the dvd player", "Find the hidden pasta strainer" and the ever-popular "Roll a cigarette while running through the school bus". Ah, the school bus… like many hostels the world over, this one, ironically, sits in a fairly quiet family neighbourhood and is therefore constrained by local law enforcement’s insistance of keeping it down after 10pm. Thus it was decided to crash an old school bus behind the pool to provide a late night "party room" for those not interested in early cerfews. The attached photo give you some idea…. wicked.

North of Nelson we drove towards Farewell Spit, the countries longest sand blow through some amazing pasture land, mountain views and vineyards. The pictures show some of what we saw. Being in New Zealand one can’t escape the desire to see EVERY location from the Lord of the Rings films, and while they claim the Shire was filmed on the North island, we’re pretty sure we found it here in Puponga… you can even see the little hobbit paths from their little hobbit feet.

We came across the small village of Takaka on the way through where Sarah had noticed a ‘climbers camp’ so we parked in another freedom camping spot beside a river that evening for what turned out to be a 48 hour rainy sit-in. Takaka really felt like our own Nelson full of small organic grocery and health stores, baby slings, dreadlocks, and, best of all, great climbing – the best on the island! I had my annual birthday sleep-in, and enquired about renting climbing gear. Did I mention it was pissing with rain? Thus, climbing could wait a day – one does not stand around in the rain on ones birthday, does one?

So this was crazy – two nights before in the Hostel Party Bus, Sarah and I happened to be sitting beside a super girl from Sweden. She was traveling around the island in a TINY car with a friend of hers… both were sleeping in this car, front seats tipped back, back seat laden with clothes… and, looking for a ‘night out’, were hanging out in this bus which, like us, they’d found fairly randomly. Fast forward two days and 150 kms on random roads, and who pulls in beside our van (parked at one of many free sites beside one of many rivers in one of many small towns on one of many roads out of Nelson) than a small car with two Swedish backpackers!? While we were all kinda doing our own thing, upon finding out it was my birthday, the two of them, from god know where, made and presented me (at midnight) with a Birthday Crown (see photo!) Without the slightest sign of bragging, they both thought I was 25, and if you look closely, the crown says ’25’ but to my amazement, had a smaller fold-out star that showed my ‘real’ age! Man, crafty buggers those Swedes. A very creative and thoughtful present indeed.

As it continued to rain the following day we weren’t ever able to climb and so we continued south to our next adventure.

Here are some photos from the drive

Whale Watching, Ocean Views & Smelly Seals

January 13, 2009

Driving north from Akaroa we found a great FREE camping spot hidden off the motorway that provided shelter, loud trains, a river that wasn’t actually there, and (to Sarah’s delight) free wild cherrys for breakfast! All over New Zealand you find "Freedom Camping" sites – spots that, while they don’t have facilities provided, allow FREE camping for campers, hikers and the like to pitch up for the night. We found a number of these on our trip and as you’ll see in future photos many proved to be our favourite views and spots so far! This one wasn’t one of them.

Awoken by the 7am Express Freight Train, we packed up and headed to Kaikoura, 180 kms north of Christchurch for a day of Whale Watching. Kaikoura, one of the busiest spots on the island for whale watching, and most of the operations there are ‘owned’ by a local Maori tribe which was a nice change from all the businesses we see these days run by far away people in far away lands. Our expedition lasted a little over 3 hours, during which we saw 2 Sperm Whales and hundreds, literally hundreds, of Dusky Dolphins. That worked out to $150 per whale, or about $1 per Dolphin, but who can put a price on such things? It really was a humbling experience to see the whales and to think of how long they’ve been swimming in these oceans, and how we, in less than 200 years have brought many of the world’s magnificent whale species to the brink of extinction… and are continuing the trend. Fortunately we were brought out of such thoughts by watching the huge pod of Dolphins chasing the boat and doing flips in the air – now they know how to have fun!

You’ll be pleased to know we reduced the 493 photos from the day to just a handful for you (below)! What I would have done for a good zoom lens!

Later that day on a walk around the point, we came across a few seals basking in the sun and MAN do they stink! Cute, cuddly, but very smelly. In fact, the next morning after a great sleep next to the ocean (one of the freedom camping spots we found) we awoke to a smell that even a mother couldn’t love… one of the buggers had flopped up on to the rocks nearby and quickly sent us on our way.

check out the photos!

Akaroa and Another Campervan

January 12, 2009

After a week of stories, laughter and shovelling shit, we set off to explore the South island of New Zealand – in a word, Beautiful.  In 35 words, The most beautiful place either of us have ever seen, as if someone collected all the most beautiful parts of scenic paintings and merged them in to one vista… and then repeated again and again.

We decided to return to the convenience of a rented camper – this time a small van from (they deserve mention and a recomendation if you’re ever in New Zealand) Rental Car Village. As New Zealand’s oldest rental company, not only were they very reasonable, unlike Britz et al, their vans show no corporate logos on the vehicles, thus preventing the "I’m a lost, confused tourist, and asking for you to break in and steal all our stuff" situation.

Equiped with a re-stocked selection of "prepackaged Navaratan Koorma in a foil pouch" we set off to nearby Akaroa for the day – a small villiage South East of Christchurch. Jo had mentioned a Herb Farm that Sarah was keen to check out, and a Fish and Chip shop that I was keen to check out. Unfortunately the Herb garden had been closed as the owner was now in a seniors home (the land had been broken up and sold to developers!?) but as fate would have it, we were invited in by the neighbour to wander through her herb garden – to our amazement, this property was also one recommended by Jo and must be seen to be believed! An incredible garden and ‘eco-retreat’ set in the woods where she serves up wonderful drinks of all the fruit etc she grows – check out the photos! The porch was covered in sheep skins, full of fragrance, and decorated with funny and provocative philisophical expressions everywhere you looked!

Back in the Saddle

January 5, 2009

After a late night arrival at the Christchurch airport, our New Zealand trip began with a thorough scrubbing of our hiking boots by a friendly quarantine officer.  Aussie honey is definitely out, prepackaged Navaratan Koorma in a foil pouch is fine, is smoked garlic salt ok?  I know, the things I travel with are a little over the top sometimes, but nobody complains when they are eating my camp meals!  We dutifully went through security with nary an Australian grass seed clinging to our socks.  Rog was forbidden to take a lunch wrap from the Brisbane airport because it contained meat, so in protest he wolfed it down as others waiting to move through quarantine inspection looked on (im)patiently.  Beds awaited us at the X-Base Hostel in the city of Christchurch on the South Island. We dread creeping in late at night and disturbing the REM sleep of people from all over the globe with an intrusive slab of light from the creaking door, a few whispers, thumps, metallic squinks and the turntable scratching of fat pack zippers.  Ugh……sorry for all the noise!  We’ve become expert navigators of dark dorm rooms full of squeaky bunk beds and snoring travelers along the way. 

Christchurch is a nice European feeling city with a cool museum and botanical gardens.  We decided to spend a week on a horse farm as Rog and I were both anxious to do some riding.  We met Jo and Jerry on a website not unlike WWOOF called  They invite travelers to stay with them in exchange for some work on the farm.  Jo picked us up from our hostel and drove us to her lifestyle farm near the tiny town of Rangiora.  We took the opportunity to help them move and stack a month’s worth of hay bales for their twelve horses.  The alfalfa, or "lucerne" as I was instructed to call it, was a bit scratchy and Rog and I felt like real farm hands after chafing up our arms and fingers all evening.  The work felt good and we were happy for the exercise, despite the blisters.  Clouds around that area of NZ farmland are especially enthralling.  Vast sweeps of differently textured wisps, plumes, and puffs cover the skyline.  The local "Norwestern"winds shape these clouds into the classic sandwich formation and can be credited for the variety of cloud patterns above.  The sunsets were naturally dramatic and gorgeous.  Meals were buttery, meaty, delicious, and followed by ice cream at Jo and Jerry’s farm.  It left me craving some gnarly, brown bread and tough, leafy greens, but I’ve no complaints when someone else cooked it, right? :).  We were well taken care of even if we gained a bit of weight.  We flung our share of poop for the good of the horses.  Horse poop, not our own….A very cute foal and it’s mother had one of the more heavily piled paddocks.  I found the foal charming until it decided to sneakily boot me from behind as I worked to pick up its refuse.  How rude!  As we were keen to ride, Jo brought out Blarney for us who hadn’t been ridden for some time, but after a groom and a quick "break in" session (which was likely as much for Roger as it was for the horse!) Roger was up and riding with an ill-fitting riding hat and excited smile, and I was soon to follow.  The next day we tried out a second more hesitant horse Spi(der) – he enjoyed his grooming but didn’t seem to like Roger on his back [Who would?? But I stayed on, regular rodeo bronco, if I do say so myself! – Roger].  It was a small taste of riding for us both, but better than nothing!  We enjoyed the opportunity to be near horses again and get "back in the saddle" and thoroughly enjoyed getting to know Jo and Jerry for the week. 

Click here to get to know the horses!

New Years, Byron & Cousins

January 1, 2009

We have spent the last few days over New Years in Byron Bay. The city explodes with backpackers during this time of year and we were lucky enough to find a great private room at Aquarius Hostel with a spa bath, beer fridge and balcony over looking the street! With the champagne cooling we headed out on the town. We met a great couple from Sydney and looked forward to counting down the hours to the new year.

Unfortunately New Years Eve was somewhat disappointing…  all the bars in town were charging at least $30 to enter so we stayed at the hostel bar where we were staying – the bar itself was great, with a good selection, a pool, licensed patio and pool bar! We were having a great time when we suddenly realized New Years had come and gone by 5 minutes and no one said anything!? Considering this was explicitly a New Years party, one would think someone would do a count down?!  We four decided to do our own (albeit a bit late) and began a good and loud 10 second count down – to looks of fear, shock, and confusion by all those around us!?  As per our tradition we then went around the bar offering New Years hugs, best wishes, and high fives… and that’s when things got a bit strange….

I’ve just removed my ‘rant’, but will leave this – some Australian men are the most homophobic, racist, aggressive and chauvinistic people I’ve ever met. I say some because the friends and families we’ve met so far have all been awesome fun people that laugh a lot and generally don’t take things too seriously, which has been inspiring and a tribute to the kind of people my mum attracts.  However, it seems that many of the ‘lads’ that hit the late night bar scene are a whole other group.  They need to chill out man! Canada remains one of the most liberal and socially modern countries on the planet IMHO. There have been a number of times here in Australia where I felt like I’ve stepped back in time 15 years! Anyway, enough said, but I felt it had to be said.

But I digress…… 🙂

Despite no countdown and the handful of louts we ‘met’ that night, our New Years remained good fun with some great laughs with all the other people. The highlight was about 1 AM when we took a (not so straight) walk down to the beach to relax on the sand under the stars. On the way there (after taking a wrong turn or three…) we ran in to Hans, a friendly Dutch lad who might just have been more lost than us! The three of us headed off and eventually found our way to the beach (BTW, for those of you who haven’t been to Byron, the beach is approximately 17 feet from the Aquarius hostel!! *ahem*)  and it was PACKED! The stars were out and the surf was up! We played in the sand and looked at the stars and had some great laughs with other late night beach goers. Now THAT is how to bring in the New Year!

After New Years we headed down to Clunes where my cousin Hannah, husband Andy and young lad Mawgan live for a few days.  Boy, 3 days with a 4 1/2 year old is exhausting!  We had loads of fun with them (see pictures!) and had a great chance to catch up on family stories and my salsa dancing!

We miss you all and hope everyone had a GREAT Christmas and New Years! Happy New Years everyone! Lets hope 2009 sees more common sense, less rich righteous, and more peace and love across our little planet.



The Australia Zoo

December 29, 2008

On the drive down to Byron Bay for New Years we dropped in to the Australian Zoo for the day. This is Steve Irwin’s family’s zoo of The Crocodile Hunter fame. I didn’t realize the zoo was opened by his parents years ago or that he’d literally grown up in the zoo – hence his, er, comfort around animals.

Despite his tragic death the zoo has continued it’s efforts in educating the public of all the little beasties in the land. His wife Terry and their two kids are heavily involved day to day and occasionally head up the big Croc show in the "Crocasseum" – we were fortunate enough to see them that day! Their kids are now mini-celebrities and it looks like their being molded to carry on the fame and publicity their father and mother have garnered. While I have concerns with kids being pushed in to the spot light at least their cause is a good one – unlike some other children of the rich and famous. The daughter Bindi seems to already have her own clothing line and music videos – all animal related – to help rope in the young and spirited to saving animals.

The Zoo itself doesn’t have as many animals as some bigger zoos, i.e. Atlanta or Toronto, but the paddocks are huge and natural and the animals look healthier and happier than any zoos we’ve seen before – this was part of the demands Steve placed early on the Zoo’s administrators.  Apparently he felt that if the animals are being kept for the enjoyment of humans, they should eat and live as well as their visitors – hence the food is as good, or better in some cases, as anything we could buy! The tortoises were eating pumpkin, buttercup squash, beetroot, lettuce, carrot, rocket, and broccoli! And that was just her lunch!

Most people know Steve as pretty crazy and fairly hands-on, a tradition the zoo has adopted through and through. Handlers wander around with all sorts of animals and critters on their shoulders for close encounters of the furry kind. As well, the presentations all have the handlers in the cages – including three excited young lads ‘playing’ with 6 tiger cubs – who didn’t look like cubs to us! At one point the handler had 4 of them follow him through the air and leap in to the [heated in winter, cooled in summer] swimming pool! From the viewing area you could see through the pool to see the buggers swimming around with him chasing balls and sticks! Sorry there’s no photos but none came out through the wet glass.

Further to Steve’s fondness for pissing off Crocs, the Crociseum show included Irwin’s long time pal jumping in the water with them, and eventually leading this prehistoric hunter back to his pen by swimming 4 feet in front it him!

All in all, a great day!

See photos of all the animals here

Fraser Island. Christmas on the beach!

December 28, 2008

Having rented a 4-wheel drive camper and had no real reason to use it, I relished the thought of getting over to Fraser Island! Located north east of Brisbane, Fraser Island is the worlds largest sand island, and holds the worlds only sand rooted rain forest!

The entire island is now a protected national park and heritage area and is only accessible by 4 wheel drive – all the roads are loose sand, wicked fun, and the eastern "70 mile" beach (actually only 53 miles long) acts as the highway to scoot up and down the island. Driving was unbelievable fun – bouncing around the van on squishy tires, off-roading in sand ruts, over roots, up hills, through rivers and booting up the beach at 85kms/h! Sarah had some ‘fun’ learning to drive standard on the left side of the beach, and I got to help a few people get their trucks out of foot deep sand, yahoo!

To top it all off of course, this was Christmas week.  We spent 5 days on the island in total, camping on different spots of the eastern beach each night.  We’d had trouble with the camper van’s fridge (it turns out the second battery had been disconnected from the alternator, meaning it had NEVER worked!  A letter will be written….) so we found a mechanic on the island who jerry rigged a switch to our bumper to allow us to charge the thing up while driving.  This allowed us cold beer (and eggs etc etc) and of course champagne on Christmas morning! As you’ll see from the photos, there was no snow, but plenty to look at.

On our first day, we visited Lake McKenzie – a picturesque fresh water ‘perched’ dune lake, surrounded by pure white sand.  Dune lakes fit under 3 categories – Perched, formed by water trapped in the sand above sea level by a layer of rock; Window, formed by depressions dropping below the water table; and Barrage, lakes formed where a water course has been dammed by sand. Whereas McKenzie is crystal clear water, there are also tea-coloured lakes… much safer for skinny dipping but a bit more frightening as god knows what is lurking beneath you! That night we found a fantastic (and shaded!) spot to camp and returned to this spot the next night for Christmas morning.  You’ll see in the photos the view we woke to on Christmas!

We woke up early Christmas morning to see what Santa had brought us, drank some champagne (it should be noted of course that it is actually ‘sparkling wine’ of which Australia seems to be currently making the best stuff!) and lounged about. We drove up the beach for a swim in Eli Creek where Sarah did another monkey impression – and was a bad influence on some young children who followed suit. Further up the beach is an old wreck of the Maheno, an old trans-Tasman ocean liner that has seen better days, and the Pinnacles – multi-coloured sand formations, supposedly the best in Australia! Further still we came to Tukkee Sandblow – one of many on the island.  This was our chance to run up a sand dune and pretend we were in the middle of the Sahara!

Christmas night we took some sleeping bags down to the beach to look at the stars for a few hours – an unbelievable view from out there! Did we mention there are wild Dingoes on Fraser Island?  Hundreds of them? You aren’t allowed to feed them or interact with them but sometimes you can’t help it – insofar as jumping out of your skin, yelping, and running back to the Campervan as quickly as you can.  Yes, our star gazing ended suddenly as, upon turning towards a noise in the dark, we found packs of wild dogs ready to pounce.  Sarah assures me it was only 2 or 3 of them and they were more scared than we were but I know she’s just saying that to make me feel better.

There are also some photos of the Champagne Rocks – some tidal pools that fill with ocean waves leaving you surrounded by bubbles of air …. like sitting in a glass of salty champagne.  Our first visit was when the tide was out and it was quiet, the next we had a few hours to ourselves until about 9am when a bus load of Irish joined us!

All in all, this was one of our favorite stops so far – thanks to Ed for suggesting we spend time here – it made the 4wd all worth while and hats off to Toyota – that van was almost as capable as Eric-The-Jeep (whom I miss terribly).

We made it off the island in once piece on Dec. 28th, and headed south to Byron Bay for New Years.  The last photo there is me with a statue of Mary Poppins in Maryborough…. we stopped there just for this photo! P L Travers, the author of the Mary Poppins stories (from which Disney made my favourite film) was born here in 1899 and lived in the building next to the statue!  She looked taller on film I thought.

See the photos

Rum and Turtles

December 21, 2008

After leaving Denise and Pete, and remembering our hangovers with Matt in Townsville, we took a quick detour to Bundaberg and did a tour of the Rum factory… very interesting stuff indeed.  The stuff before the tasting wasn’t bad either.  Imagine a ‘room’ (a massive concrete tank with a roof and walkway really) that holds over 4,000,000 gallons of molasses!?!

The night before however, to Sarah’s delight, we stumbled upon the "Mon Repos" turtle hatchery.  Mon Repos beach on the Bundaberg coast is one of few remaining (and now protected) areas for sea turtle nesting. As many of you know, sea turtles lay their eggs on beaches very close to where they were born many years before – a phenomena that still baffles scientists.  About 50 years ago a scientist was studying sea turtles in the area and along with the EPA and Ministry of Agriculture has established a completely protected stretch of beach to help these endangered creatures survive and hopefully rebuild their populations.

As well as a full lab and research facility (the primary facility for Australia where ALL nationally collected data is stored and processed by volunteers year round) Mon Repos has a large visitor centre to introduce and educate travelers about the plight of sea turtles.  Years ago 1000s of people would flood the beach every night from November to March to watch the turtle building nests which, naturally, was a bit disturbing for the exhausted mothers! The scientists decided to set up a system where up to 300 visitors can book a ‘tour’ in a controlled and structured way so that both the natural process can continue, but also visitors can see first hand the laying of eggs through to the emerging hatchlings.  Because it’s a natural event it’s a toss up what you might see but wow, did we luck out!  After the sun went down, Dave, one of the original scientists gave a great presentation on the life-cycle of the various sea turtles and told us what to expect, when we can take pictures, and why it’s important to stay together.  then the waiting begins…. some groups wait 20 minutes, others 5 hours, until a turtle arrives to deliver.  We waited until about 12 am (watching various turtle documentaries… some great, some not so great) during which we had a few false alarms – a turtle would arrive on the beach, but sensing the wind was up (poor buggers getting sand in their eyes!) would turn around to try again tomorrow.  Finally one mother decided it was time and up she crawled. To my satisfaction a not-so-great documentary about some irritating girl following the life of a turtle she saved was cut short and we were sent off in our group (those that hadn’t given up waiting!) to the beach to watch the events unfold.  Standing there on the windy beach (without lights!) we were given the surprise that HATCHLINGS had appeared!  Turtle eggs take 6-8 weeks to hatch and none were expected for another few weeks but sure enough two babies had emerged, been taken to the lab for measurements and quick physical (only the first few of each season are examined) and were brought over for us to look at! Two baby Flatback turtles… an exceptionally lucky event as Mon Repos is the only spot in Oz where the (endangered) Flatback’s reproduce!! very cute.

We were then taken up the beach to watch a HUGE Loggerhead turtle (a 99.7cm long shell, born in 1988 and named "T41260" – clearly turtles are named by the same dull scientists that name stars!) plopping eggs in to her nest. They lay around 100 eggs per ‘clutch’ and usually build 3-4 nests per nesting season – this was T41260’s 4th clutch this season. After they’re laid, the turtle instinctively covers them in sand and then makes her way back to the ocean.  It’s incredible to see Nature in action like this – we (arrogantly) assume this is all instinct but the turtle can find the beach (using the earth’s magnetic field, imprinted on the turtle when they made their way down the beach the day they were born!), dig a nest (exactly 55 cm deep, in an inverted cone shape), lay their eggs, bury them, disguise the nest, and make it back to the ocean all within a few hours… and only when the conditions suit her taste!  Back in the ocean they can (on will) fertilize another batch of eggs using sperm (from up to 40 males!) stored internally from the mating that took place weeks ago and miles away and come back to build additional nests!  Crazy.

FYI, turtles can’t reproduce until they’re over 30 years old, and only 1 out of every 1000 make it to this age. Some more interesting tid-bits:

  • The sex of a turtle is determined exclusively by the temperature of the sand. Warmer sand means 100% males in a nest, colder means 100% female.  +/- 5 degrees or so, otherwise the nest doesn’t survive.  Lookout global warming.
  • Sea turtles have 15-20 ‘Lost Years’ after they’re born to when they return to their mating grounds ready to mate… no one knows where they go, why or what brings them back!
  • Once old enough to reproduce, each turtle remains alone and stays close to the same reef for their entire life, except when leaving to the mating grounds or (in the case of pregnant females) to their nesting site
  • Females only reproduce when they are fit enough to manage the journey and months of starvation – usually once every 3-4 years
  • Hatchlings find the ocean by looking for the lowest source of light (usually the horizon) and will follow flashlight beams, head lights, or light from beach town resorts.  Luckily HERE there is none of that! Too bad about all the other beaches!

As with so many sea creatures, they are endangered by over fishing (Asian markets continue to think turtle and sharks are magic elixirs!?), hunting, drag nets and accidental capture, and boat collisions. 

Oh – on this note, EVERYONE should watch the movie "Shark Water"… you’ll be shocked by what continues to go on in our oceans.  Remember, when the oceans die, we die.  Global warming holds NOTHING on the devastation of the oceans.

All that adds up to what we saw being a bit of a miracle – a very worthwhile stopover and an unforgettable experience to witness.  Sorry there aren’t more photos – for the sake of the turtles you are limited on what you can photograph, but there are thousands of photos online if you google Mon Repos!

See some photos

Rocky – with Denise and Pete

December 20, 2008

As you may know, my connection with Australia stems from time my mum lived here back in her 20’s.  To their credit, mum and all the friends she made have stayed in touch and visited us in Britain and Canada throughout the years. Some of them I have met, others I’ve only heard stories (and stories, and stories…) about. One such couple is Denise and Pete Dalton in Rockhampton ("Rocky" to the locals, just south of Townsville) who graciously put us up for a few nights, sight unseen!

As with all Aussies it seems, Denise and Pete are warm, welcoming, laid back and really friggin’ funny.  Denise took us on a whirlwind tour of Rockhampton where we saw (and finally got photos of) more fruit bats, various lookouts and ocean views, a BLACK Cock-er-two, an old non-denominational chapel (as all should be IMHO) built by U.S. soldiers stationed during the war, and the very cool ‘singing ship’ memorial – a tribute to the revered Capt. Cook, this statue actually ‘sings’ and whistles as the wind blows through it, imitating the sound a sailing vessel makes as wind passes through the rigging.  Pretty neat-o. We also stopped for a photo at the Tropic of Capricorn (my birth sign!) after Denise had shown us a photo she took there with mum and dad years ago!

That evening we were back for a swim and BBQ next door – another fine example of an Aussie BBQ… meet, drink, meat, drink, repeat.  Conversation became so lively that a ‘conch’ was passed around to keep the jokes from overlapping! It was also revealed that Denise has in her possession something of priceless value – THE recipe for my gran’s infamous Cornish pasties! and in my mum’s own handwriting!!! You could almost still smell the sherry.  To top off the evening, we had a surprise visit from a small green tree frog, which, like all creatures great and small took an immediate liking to Sarah.

Oh, and in case you haven’t seen enough photos of Sarah and I together, Denise made us take a few…. hundred.

See some pix