Guess what’s for dinner

After spending a couple hours with Derek in Coral Bay then saying our good-byes we planned on making a relatively straight run for Carnarvon for a one night stay. However we did make coffee stop in Geraldton in the Dome Cafe not so much for the coffee more for the 45 min. of free wifi if you purchased a coffee. They gave us two password slips however Steve was trying to book our flights to Melbourne we definitely needed more slips. I went up to the counter saying I forgot to get a slip for myself while my dad bought a cake as he must have a sweet with his coffee and said he needed internet access. With the extra slips Steve was under less time pressure to book flights  and we could use my laptop to find a place to stay in Carnarvon and send a email to my mom letting her know internet acces would once again be limited (spoiled in Exmouth). Steve having booked our  flights we stepped outside and searched for a picnic table along the waterfront.  Geraldton has a fairly large waterfront with many open public spaces so finding a table did not take long. An aside here for you would be travellers who want to save money by making their own meals. Save all large and small containers from yogourt, hummus etc. They make great containers for pasta salads or other various cold salads you would make for a picnic lunch. Between Katrina, Derek and myself we were able to make some good stomach filling lunches, kept our food expenses down by having theses containers. Having finished our meal of pasta salad, cheese and veggies we were on the hwy. to Carnarvon once more. Our drive to Carnarvon would be the only part that was going to be retraced from our route up to Exmouth. The rest of the drive back to Perth would be closer to the coast line. Even though school holidays were over we almost unable to find a place to spend the night Can. Seems Seniors were heading for warmth and the beauty of the wildflowers that were just starting to bloom. That’s the great thing in Australia if you are feeling too cold in the winter all you do is drive north and you are back into beach weather. Oddly enough the place we managed to get is right beside the caravon park we stayed in on our way up to Exmouth.

By the time we unpacked we were definitely ready for supper or as they say here tea. We tried the local pizzeria/restaurant as it offered gluten-free pizza what a wonderful surprise we had.   We ordered two pizzas to share, Steve with my dad  and I with Katrina. My father who is not a big fan of pizza declared it was the best pizza he ever had eaten. The real wow was the gluten-free pizza Katrina and I shared. My hat goes off to the chef as I have made gluten-free pizza dough and it is no easy task to make it taste like regular pizza dough. But this chef has it down pack I would say it was the best pizza period I ever had. We felt we could not go wrong with the desserts that were on the menu and we were absolutely right.

On a Friday night one would stay out late enjoy another glass off wine this was not the case for us. As we wanted to be up bright and early to check out the Farmer’s market which we were unable to do the last time we were here. The Farmer’s market was a bit of a let done after dreaming about all the wonderful fruits and vegetables we could buy. It was half Flea market so there was not quite the array I was hoping for but Katrina was delighted to see that fresh herbs were being sold. With our arms filled fresh eggs,vegetables and herbs we left for the car knowing we had plenty of time enjoy coffee one more time at River Gum’s cafe. Another aside sometimes it is best to visit a place only once. The great tasting coffee we enjoyed last time definitely lost it’s good flavour this time around. But one good thing came out of our second visit I was able to find out where I could buy fresh papaya.

After buying the papaya we should have left town but as it was well past lunch time we need a fairly filling meal before leaving for our next destination. What happened next is I found myself in a game of musical lunch bowls. As we often do when eating out we taste the other person’s meal. Katrina offered a taste to Steve of her chicken noodle meal whereupon Steve says it’s nice but tastes fishy. For your information Katrina is allergic to shellfish so the alarm bells went off and I was asked to taste. While I was tasting Katrina starts digging through her meal and discovered little brown things. Upon which I grabbed the bowl from and said those are shrimp I will eat your meal you can have mine. All seemed to be well after a couple of fork fulls of Katrian’s meal Steve then says his throat feels itchy. Katrina then jumps up grabs her and Steve’s meal to question the cook. After much hand waving Katrina was able to find out that her chicken meal was done with a fish sauce and Steve’s done in a Satay sauce which is a peanut sauce. Musical bowls started again this time I am given  Steve’s meal, Kat. has mine and Steve was to eat Kat’s. By now both  Steve and Kat are just staring at the food hoping they won’t become severely ill. Unfortunately we had become a bit complacent with asking questions concerning their allergies as we had not run into any difficulties. Big mistake I kept saying while I am running down the grocery aisle looking for ginger beer to help settle their stomachs. After a 3 hour wait, Steve having eaten a meal from another restaurant and no major reactions from either one of them we felt it was safe to make our way southward. For me it will always be the day of musical bowls with me waiting to see what meal would finally be mine to eat and it wasn’t the one I ordered.

The 3 hour delay made our drive into the interior an interesting one as it was pitch dark, no lights on the the road and it was not smoothly paved think the old mid-west days. We were headed to the Riverside Sanctuary which is near a section of the  Murchison River that is protected. It once was a sheep farm of up to 15,000 sheep, still an operational farm but now offering farmstay  accommodations. Former shearer lodgings that have been transformed to 1 or 3 bedroom self-contained units and in our case the actually lodgings. These were refurbished and had two nice sized bunk beds. The 4 of us felt quite cozy sleeping in our sleeping bags. Luckily no else was staying in the other lodgings so we could grab some extra sleeping bags which we definitely needed as it was quite a cold night. We cooked out dinner and breakfast in the former shearing camp kitchen which is actually inside the shearing shed/barn. The owners set up the barn with many historical news items and many articles of the shearing life. One news photo that caught my eye was a photo taken during 1999 draught. It showed thousands of Emu running along the Emu barrier trying to find water which was on the other side of the fence for the farmers and their crop. The death toll must have been huge.

The next day we walked through 10,000 acre property that the family have been rehabilitating by planting over 100,000 over 30 years and protecting the natural landscape. Once we reached the river both Katrina and I were wanting to get out of there. We were feeling such sadness and I was feeling such tension in my chest that felt my heart was going to jump out. I truly believe many terribly things happened here to the first people of the land and to the native wildlife itself. Both Katrina and I were feeling that and I think perhaps the family who owned the farm. Perhaps this why they have spent the last 30 years giving back what was taken away.

After weeks of driving on the dry open lands of Western Australia (WA) where one had to worry that sheep or cows were going to cross the highway yes I said cross. We did during part of our drive out of Exmouth come across cows that had been killed hate think what the car looked like. Here in the WA fencing in is not a operative word which is quite odd after having spoken with a lady whose property is beside River Gum’s Cafe. In 2010 there was huge flood (Gascoyne River) which caused a fair amount of damage. When it was safe to go back to her home the lady discovered a huge cement mixing trunk just on the edge of property (her kids painted it as a sign for the Cafe) but off the road. Recently she received a letter that stated she would have to remove it as there was potential for a serious car accident. Who would of thought that a cow crossing the main highway had less probability of causing serious harm than a cement mixer that is not even on the road. I know there is logic in there somewhere just haven’t found it yet. But as I was saying it was nice to be heading toward the coastal roads.

Cervantes would be our next stop for a two night stay. The point of interest here was the Pinnacles Desert, a desert where rocks have erupted out the sands. It is believed that they formed underground 500,000 years ago. Scientist believe they either remained buried or went through a cycle of being exposed then buried again. Research also seems to show that about 6,000 years ago they appeared but were buried again until a few hundred years ago. It was a stunning site to see and to walk amongst these mysteries that stand in the sands. What had me perplexed was if these Pinnacles are such natural wonders why are cars and small buses aloud to drive through the area. It was abit surreal to watch from the lookout platform the cars/buses drive around stop, people jump out take a picture get in their transport and drive on to repeat the whole process.  It makes sense to allow people who have a physical disability to drive on the sands but everybody else who can walk should go out and enjoy it for all it’s wonder. Not sure how you can truly appreciate what you are seeing by doing jump out and snap. It serves more the purpose I been there and seen it here’s the picture.

Left Cervantes first thing in the morning as we had a plane to catch in Perth that would bring us to Melbourne. Just when I think there are no more National Parks to be seen we discover one less than  a hour north of Perth Yanchep National Park and Koala Sanctuary.  I was almost beside myself when I found out about the Koala sanctuary.  When we came to Oz the first time we did not get a chance to see any. Steve barely had parked and I was already out of the car camera in hand. The park itself has 9 walking trails we walked the wetlands trail (2 km) after having lunch in a Inn (a former estate) which was celebrating Xmas in July. After having a nice relaxing time in the park it was time for me to be stressed out again. When we checked in with the ticket agent I discovered that Steve had purchased my ticket using Renee Leahy and not my legal name Renate.  Thought here I go again if security looks at both my passport and ticket they would say you are not boarding the plane. A 110 additional gray hairs later with my business cards in hand where I use Renee Leahy I am ready to give the spiel of my life. My boarding card is taken I calmly (ha ha) await “passport please” but wait minute he doesn’t ask run onto the plane as fast as you can.  One word of advice aside from making sure that name on passport and ticket match. Tiger Airways if they can find a way to charge you extra they will. In our case the online booking tickets did not go through properly for the 3 us we were unable to check our baggage in. This resulted in us paying an extra $90.00 per ticket did not matter that their website screwed up. It is a battle we still have to fight once we get home.

The 3 hours of flying time we landed in Melbourne after 10:30 pm to be greeted by cousin (3rd) Barbara. It was great to see her again. By the time we arrived at her home in the suburb of Altona we were almost ready for bed did chit chat for an hour. We enjoyed a wonderful few days with them in fact one evening we had a wonderful dinner with some of their friends who belong to a VW car club. Think hoarders and then visualize a shed filled with Kombis (Bus), Beetles along with10 other classic/antique cars, another shed with an original designed Meyers fiberglass Dune Buggy and all the tools and parts to build or re-build cars or engines. Next in the living room a floor to ceiling show case about 8 feet long with every vw toy you can imagine. I believe that evening was every VW owners dream especially since I got to see one of Herbie’s stand-ins as well.

My cousin and her husband Andrew were kind enough to loan us their car for a weekend. We put the  car on the Great Ocean Drive Road heading for Apollo Bay. The road was built by soldiers who returned from World War I between 1919 and 1932 and is the world’s largest war memorial to the fallen soldiers of that war. The problem with this unbelievably curvy road is built for cars that did have tremendous. Drivers would not be able zoom around the bends the way they try to now. This time you had to pry my fingers of the arm rest after we reached our destination. It is a small coastal town on the eastern side of Otway Cape. From here one can go to the Otway National Park to see glow worms in the dark of night and in another area Koalas way up high either eating or sleeping so that they can digest their meal of eucalyptus leaves. The next time you put your about to decorate your Xmas tree do something for me especially if you have the miniature white lights. Before putting on the tree set a couple or strings on the floor plug them in turn off your lights step back abit and say to yourself the following.  This what Renee and her family saw the night they went stumbling in the dark looking for glow worms. If this doesn’t give you an idea of the magical moments we had that night. Then you will just have to fly to Oz drive the crazy Great Ocean road and go to Otway National Park and enjoy the experience first hand. I am pretty sure James Cameron did going by some scenes in Avatar.

Another attraction in this area are the 12 Apostles which are limestone rock stacks protruding out of the water. Sadly due to wave erosion there are only 8 left but still a wonder see even if you are about to be blown off the walkway (very, very stormy that day). A few kilometers further one can view the beauty of Lock Ard Gorge just as stunning.

The most interesting and bizarre thing I saw in Melbourne was in a police museum. In fact I never thought I would ever see such a thing. Three guesses……no, no and maybe the answer a 18th century Vampire Slaying Kit which the police obtained during a 1994 drug raid. A lovely wooden box containing pistols, wooden stake, crucifix, silver bullets and holy water.  Melbourne’s botanical garden had changed since we were there 8 years ago by adding a wetlands area which just adds to it’s beauty. The best part about being in Melbourne was having the chance to unwind for awhile after many so long drives on the WA highway. But most importantly being able to  spend time with my cousin and her husband.

The question you have to ask now is did Renee have any surprises awaiting her at the airport before the plane flying to Christchurch, New Zealand.

The answer awaits in my next installment.


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Always make a hard copy

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A little voice in my head said make a hard copy on the day I received my Aussie visa. Which was with in 10 minutes of the credit card payment having gone through. I was sent a message that my application was accepted and during the whole process no red flags came up. But that little voice just kept nagging me to print a copy. As I don’t really have great faith or trust in online services I did exactly that and printed a copy.

All was going well  in the ticket line everything checked out okay for Steve, Katrina and my father. Then came my turn as the ticket agent swiped my passport I watched with intrepedation as the startled looking agent said to me according to Australian immigration you are already in Australia. After I picked up my heart off the floor I showed her the email message I received saying that I have a visa. After a few minutes what the immigration message meant she decided to see if my boarding passes would print up. If they did it meant there really wasn’t a problem. They all printed out and we went on our merry way thinking all is well in the world.

Our six hour flight to London was uneventful not that I managed much sleep. Whatever position I slept in my back and shoulders muscles would scream at me to assume another position. Fortunately for all us Steve in his travel wisdom booked rooms for us at Heathrow airport in a Yotel as we had a very long lay over. What is a Yotel you may ask. Unlike a hotel it provides small sized accommodations with everything in it but the kitchen sink. Aside from my father we all managed to catch a few ZZ’s. Feeling somewhat rested we chowed down on a hearty breakfast ready to endure the next leg our flight  11 hours to Singapore.

Within a few minutes of checking in for boarding the agent comes around the corner and asks me if I have a VISA for Australia as it has come up not to allow me to board. My heart punched out of my chest and dropped to the floor once again with me barely getting out the word YES!! With my hard copy in hand the agent tried to sort things out for me by a having a three way conversation with a ticket agent in Australia who was conversing with someone from immigration at the same time. The problem was that when I visited Australia 8 years ago my departure was never registered hence the reason for the message in Toronto stating I was still in Australia. Now that little voice has turned into a nagging headache knowing our plane was about to depart in 20 minutes. Everyone in my family is telling me to breathe and stay calm but that all went out the window when I was handed the phone to speak with the Australia ticket agent. Her question do I know the exact date when I left Australia otherwise nothing can be done? Now I am ready to crawl through the phone and scream are you kidding me then puke on her feet as I was feeling nauseated by this point. Then my fairy godmother arrives the Supervisor on the London side of things. Once informed about my predicament she starts to work two phones at the same time and within a few minutes tells me Rick of the Immigration department in Canberra has over ridden the don’t allow me to board notice. With about 5 minutes to spare and my stomach starting to do a dance we walked on the plane. A couple of gravols later I am sprawled across Katrina and Steve  sleeping  on and off  during our 11 hour flight. While thanking my little voice that said I should print a hard copy.

In Zombie like fashion I entered the Singapore airport and immediately felt peace. Singapore airport is one of the best airports in the world. Which I can understand why as it’s design and purpose is to provide calm for hectic air travellers. They did so with style by having a beautiful butterfly garden to walk through and enjoy.  Even though I was feeling much better I still wanted to be at the gate well enough in advance to make sure I did not have to do the pick my heart of the floor dance again. Rick from Canberra had done his job, he will never know how indebted I am to him. I am also considering framing my hard copy.

The last leg of our trip was uneventful which was okay by me. Funny the smallest plane provided the best meals and a yummy chocolate fudge/chocolate covered ice cream for dessert. After what I had been through it seemed like a gift from the gods. We arrived in Perth a little before ll:30 pm. Picking up our luggage we still had a half our taxi ride before arriving at our rental which by that time was 1:00 am on July 28th. We all did a swan dive into bed and covered ourselves with lots of blankets as winter was upon us.

Thankfully I managed 8 hours of sleep, I woke up to find that Steve had bought provisions for breakfast. Even though it was cool outside the sun was shinning and the was a good enough invitation for to go for a walk. Luckily for us there was a beautiful park nearby called Hardey Park.  Hardey Park is one many beautiful city parks you find through out Australia. The aptly named Swan river flowed through the park where one can easily see downtown Perth. But to my surprise and delight the park is a haven for water fowl and birds alike within minutes I discovered these wonderful birds.

Perth also has the one of the world’s largest city parks King Park with a botanical which must be absolutely stunning in their spring and summer, have to keep reminding myself it’s winter here. However I did manage to see some flowering plants and shrubs. This is the one thing I do envy the Australians for is the wonderful plant life the can enjoy year round.

Tomorrow we pick Derek up at the bus station in downtown Perth, Steve gets to test out his Australian driving skills as we drive south to Kendenup, Western Australia.

G’day to all until next time.