Was a teacher! Now retired!
  • Day67

    Last day today!

    November 10, 2017 in Australia ⋅ ⛅ 23 °C

    So, the bags are packed except flight bag, with warm jumpers in to put on when we get back to Heathrow; a croissant and pastry breakfast that just happened to jump into Clare's bag when she went on an emergency trip to buy coffee and now for a walk along the foreshore with Clare, Hana, Sarah and Trev.
    I think during the holiday we have covered the foreshore walk from Shorncliff Pier to Woody point in various stages apart from the bridge! This time we drove to Decker Park so we could take Yoshi and walked along the sand or foreshore, under the bridge and into Brighton Park and then enjoyed the company, conversation and scenery at one of the picnic tables before Trev and Yoshi setting the pace to get us back to the car.
    A phone call to Clare pointed out that the replacement ring I chose yesterday was ready so Clare stopped to let us out at the jewellers, dropped Yoshi back to the house and we all met up for coffee at the new coffee shop, Capulet in Sandgate.
    Final packing, fish & chips with mushy peas for dinner, then hugs or cuddles from family members and strokes for Yoshi and we're off to the Brisbane airport - Christmas has arrived here with a vengeance! Decorated Xmas trees; sparkly Emus, Koalas and kangaroos, plus the obligatory Xmas music selection - Oh Joy or bah humbug!!
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  • Day65

    Bowen & Airlie Beach, Queensland

    November 8, 2017 in Australia ⋅ ⛅ 24 °C

    Today was an early start - partly planned, mostly 'cos we were all up early. Chris was again the driver and we were heading to Bowen to visit the area that Lizi lived for 2 - 3 months when she was working on The Queensland music festival production, 'Behind the Cane'. We had a long drive as Bowen is situated 189 km north of Mackay. However, our cases etc were loaded into the car as we were coming back via Proserpine Airport in the evening, rather than Mackay, so Chris and Barbara would drop us off on the way home.
    Bowen sits on a square peninsula, with the Coral Sea to the north, east, and south. To the south-east is Port Denison. On the western side, where the peninsula connects with the mainland, the Don River's alluvial plain provides fertile soil that supports a prosperous farming industry.
    As you come into Bowen you come across The Big Mango - costing $90,000 to create, it was erected in 2002 as a tourist attraction at the Bowen Tourist Information Centre. In February 2014, the 10-metre high, seven-tonne fibreglass structure was stolen in an overnight operation. The mango was found the next day and it was later revealed that the theft had been a publicity stunt. There is now a second smaller Mango on the wharf by the outdoor stage that was given to Bowen by the publicity company after it's use for an advert in Sydney.
    During World War 2 Bowen hosted an air force base, flying PBY Catalina flying boats to search for enemy ships and submarines. The concrete aprons and ramp are still present, and silhouettes of two aircraft have been painted in.
    Bowen is on a peninsula, with ocean on three sides. This gives eight beaches surrounding the town, namely Kings Beach, Queens Beach, Horseshoe Bay, Murrays Bay, Greys Bay, Rose Bay, and the Front Beach. Kings Beach offers views of nearby Gloucester Island.
    We drove round the bays and stopped at Horseshoe bay, a beautifully secluded bay with amenities and a cafe. We needed the space to stretch our legs and have a coffee.
    In December 2006, it was announced that Bowen was chosen as a filming location for a third of the production of Australia, directed by Baz Luhrmann and starring Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman, portraying the look of Darwin. The production moved to Bowen on 14 May 2007.
    When it was announced that Australia was to be filmed in Bowen, locals painted a large "Bowenwood" sign on an old water tank on top of a hill, in a parody of the world-famous Hollywood sign, which is still there.
    The Pub / hotel used for the film is still there though has had a major makeover. The campsite and lagoon where she cycled to work were also seen and it was a 3 pelican day!
    On the wharf we stood on the stage where the production took place, read the information on the filming of Australia and talked to the local tradies! The Pie shop that Lizi frequented that did the best pies was our lunchtime stop - Bowen specials with peas, Steak and Kidney with peas and a Jackman hunky beef pie for Sarah - this Lizi raved about.
    After lunch it was on to Airlie beach, again a favourite of Lizi's. Barbara decided to go past and head to Shute Harbour first, so we went through Airlie and out the other side. Shute Harbour is a port facility for the transfer of visitors to the Whitsunday Islands and resort destinations. Unfortunately now that Airlie Port and the marina has taken a lot of its traffic it is looking a little dejected! It commands outstanding views from most locations. A selection of holiday homes, some quite posh and one small hotel situated right on the crest of a hill take in some of the best. These also took the brunt of the cyclone that visited the area - the hotel is now derelict and many of the beautiful houses are either damaged, derelict or being sold! There are though new houses also being built. The port is used to ship goods to the islands including building materials and machinery. The port was one of the busiest small vessel facilities in Australia, A public boat ramp is available, with limited trailer parking, for launching of small private vessels. The public fishing jetty is an excellent spot to dangle a line and try your luck at catching some of the famed tropical Whitsunday fish and squid species.
    To get to Shute Harbour, we drove east for ten pleasantly winding kilometres through Conway National Park from Airlie Beach. after having a drive round this headland we headed back to spend time in Airlie. Airlie Beach is a tourist destination, popular with backpackers. Its beach is small and the sea is inhabited by marine stingers, the box jellyfish (Chironex fleckeri) from November to May. In order to provide somewhere for the visitors tourists to swim, the local council, has built a medium-sized swimming lagoon on the foreshore.
    The Great Barrier Reef is somewhat accessible from Airlie Beach, with an array of different types of tours available. Majority of these tours depart from Abell Point Marina but a few depart from the recently completed Port of Airlie.
    After having a wander around the shops and a cold drink, Trev and I walked around the headland to Abell point Marina via the Bicentennial Walkway to have a look at the yachts and boats moored there. On the way back a call from Barbara and Sarah alerted us to the fact that if we were ready to go earlier they were sitting in the cool by the lagoon. So on our return they suggested we might drive round to the marina before heading to Proserpine! Imagine their surprise when we said we had walked there. Anyway, Chris fancied seeing the boats so a quick drive and gaze at those in the marina was needed and then on to Proserpine for tea and a biscuit. Proserpine was named by the explorer George Dalrymple, after Persephone the Greek goddess of fertility, recognising the fertile qualities in the region. The town's Main Street is a reminder of how life used to be – particularly the 'art deco' period evident in the shop architecture which has been well preserved. Old-fashioned courtesies still survive in Proserpine, particularly at many of the charming retail outlets and country-style hotels, but NOT after 4.pm - it seems the main town closes at this point! We did notice a road sign to 'Colour me Crazy', which Barbara said she had been trying to get to for a while so we had a wander round this Alladin's cave of a store - large, colourful, packed with beads, clothes, unicorns, gems, dream-catchers and anything in between!
    So, onto Proserpine airport and Barbara's navigation which Chris did not necessarily have faith in! We got there after waiting for a long train to cross our path and the distraction of a race track along the road to the airport. Chris was really pleased though because as we entered the airport grounds there were wallabies / kangaroos hopping around! Also Bunnies on their way home.
    Thanks guys for a great holiday and tour of Mackay and its surrounding areas!
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  • Day64

    North Beaches & Eungella, Queensland

    November 7, 2017 in Australia ⋅ ☀️ 28 °C

    After breakfast and the visit from one of the cows this morning, Barbara took us out to visit the Northern beaches all of which are said to 'offer sun, sand and sensational ocean views that have the ambience of a tropical retreat whilst only being 20 minutes from Mackay’s CBD'. The first on her tour was Shoal Point where apart from miles of sand we could view incredible scenery toward Cape Hillsborough from the sparkling water. The shallow water and nearby islands make it the perfect place to launch a small boat. However, we didn't expect to see one launched in the way we did - coming along the road on three wheels was a boat being driven on top by a gentleman, looking like a king of all he surveyed! He drove the boat on wheels down the boat ramp and into the water, then once deep enough the back wheels were lifted up to either side and the front tucked underneath, the outboard motor dropped down and of he went speeding towards the mainland opposite!
    The next on the tour was Bucasia Beach a picturesque sandy haven, with soft white sand underfoot. Approximately four kilometres in length, Bucasia Beach is one of the longest beaches in the Mackay Region. Our next stop was for a coffee or cold drink at the nearby Eimeo Pacific Hotel, with an elevated coastal view. The pub's enviable position overlooks the Coral Sea and Eimeo Beach with views toward the southern Whitsunday islands. Eimeo Beach, (pronounced I-me-o), is a popular retreat for locals. Nestled in Sunset Bay, the beach is seasonally patrolled by volunteer lifesavers. A must-see is 80-year old Mango Avenue. This heritage-listed attraction stretches between Whittles Lane and Heidke Street, forming a shaded canopy above the streetscape.
    A beautiful part of Mackay's Northern Beaches, Dolphin Heads is a rocky and sandy headland, popular with photography enthusiasts. It can be reached by car within 15 minutes from Mackay's Central Business District. The area is thought to have been named after the shape of the headland, which looks similar to the shape of two dolphin heads. The view looks out toward southern Whitsunday islands, including Brampton Island. At low tide it is possible to walk from Dolphin Heads to neighbouring Eimeo Beach across the tidal creek bed. Here Barbara took us up to the complex of very posh houses nestled on the headland and actually found her way out, which it seems is usually quite unusual! Last was a drive past Black’s Beach which is the longest beach in the Mackay region, its golden sand stretching 6km in length. After this we dropped in to the garage to meet Barbara's son Steven, before heading back to the farm for Lunch and to switch cars.
    Chris's turn next - this time we were heading out to Eungella National Park to hopefully see Platypus in the wild at twilight. We made a few stops on the way, the first unfortunately closed at lunchtime - although we were ables to drive up and have a look from the outside.
    Greenmount Homestead (five kilometres west of Walkerston) is one of Mackay's most valued historic attractions. Greenmount was developed by AA Cook on the cattle run first taken up by Captain John Mackay and was gifted to the city by the Cook Family in 1984.
    Next was Nellie Melba's House by the side of the Pioneer river which has been turned into a craft shop, cafe and information centre. "Her soft brown eyes captured the hearts of men, her voice cast a magic spell on audiences in London, Paris and many other cities in Europe as well as the United States of America, the legendary diva Dame Nellie Melba". Few know that the acclaimed opera singer spent the first year of her married life in a small house right here in the heart of the Pioneer Valley, in Marian. The house where the diva with the golden voice lived, is now open to the public for free. It shows a beautiful array of photos, recordings, memorabilia, books and furniture of her time. A statue of a Cane Cutter, erected in 1994 as a memorial to the pioneering families of the Marian district, is situated in Edward Lloyd Park approximately 50 metres from Melba House. Plaques on the plinth list the names of the residents - those who settled the district prior to 1900 are on the front; the remaining three sides list those families which became residents since 1900. During the Rugby League season the Canecutter shows his support for the Maroons by dressing in the team colours and waving the Queensland flag.
    Then we headed towards the Eungella National Park and the Chalet. Located adjacent to the head of the Mackay Highlands Great Walk, and built in 1933 as a guest house for people requiring clear mountain air, the Eungella Chalet has been a landmark in the local area for decades. Today the Eungella Chalet still operates, providing clear mountain air, with some advancements in the way of creature comforts. The Chalet is a renowned pit stop for the weary traveler, providing a licensed bar and restaurant along with fantastic Pioneer Valley Views. On this day it was decorated with horses andjockeys for a Melbourne Cup lunch. In the garden were carved wooden statues of wizards, dragons and toadstools; as well as a staging area for anybody who wanted to do paragliding! Eungella is nestled on the very edge of the Clark Range, the city of Mackay located 80km to the east can be seen beyond the towns dotted along the meandering Pioneer River as it cuts through the flood plains of the Pioneer Valley. We sat and had soft drinks and enjoyed the stunning view back along the windy road to Mackay and beyond. Once finished and refreshed we continued the drive onto Broken River in the National Park which is recognised as the world’s best place to see Platypus, unusual semi-aquatic egg-laying mammals. This extremely shy creature is tough to spot, but your best chance of seeing it is at sunrise or sunset. The platypus viewing deck is near Broken River's picnic grounds. We tried the main viewing platform first and looked for air bubbles and ripples in the water, these are the signs that there could be a platypus below - however after 30 - 45 mins we had only seen a couple of snakes, turtles and bubbles with a triangular wake. We were about to give up but Barbara reminded Chris that there was one more platform underneath the bridge over the river. Finally, after staying still and quiet to improve our chances of seeing one, the little creatures decided to show themselves - Platypus are smaller that you think and really fast! Just as you get your camera ready to take a picture he disappears again! But we each got pictures and Chris felt a little better that this twilight trip had worked!
    Unfortunately, we could not drop into see Amanda on the way back as she was not feeling well. It is amazing how much quicker we got home - I think it was the speed Chris came down the range and followed the road along the river! Dinner was had again on the veranda - breaded steak, mash, Pumpkin and peas/sweetcorn. With the the occasional Dingo, cow or frog heard in the background.
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  • Day63

    Farleigh, Mackay & Cape Hillsborough

    November 6, 2017 in Australia ⋅ ⛅ 28 °C

    Ok, so a 1 hr 30 min flight by Jet Star to Mackay and we were up on the East Coast of Queensland. We were met at the airport by Barbara, Ken's sister. Once the car was loaded with cases we were taken for a tour of the area that Ken grew up in, with Barbara pointing out where the family lived, cane farms owned by their uncle and stories about family members.
    We arrived at their homestead in Farleigh which is up a farm road, over a cane train track and finally up the hill with 2 trees on top via a rough track, keeping an eye out for cows or wildlife. This means that their homestead can be easily spotted from 360 degrees around the hill and when you sit on the veranda you have an amazing view to look at! The Wedge-tailed eagle that Chris described appeared on cue.
    Chris had been looking after Stretton and Eden, their grand children (Amanda's children) in the morning, so he was going to show us the area around Mackay after lunch as a reward. Michael dropped in to say 'hello' ( long hair, vegan, hippy) and Neil, Ken's brother joined us for lunch and brought some information on the places that B & C had planned to take us which he thought might be useful to us, plus a bottle of wine to share.
    Chris's tour started at a high point in Mackay, very steep road up, which meant we could see a 180 view over the city and surrounding area, including the Pioneer River, and in the far distant the many islands and coral sea. Throughout his tour, Chris gave us info about the area, historical, familial and anecdotal and gave us an insight into his character. Next stop was Lamberts lookout which offered stunning views overlooking Lamberts Beach, the Cumberland Islands and Slade Point. This is also a popular viewing platform to see the migrating whales as they breach and play off the coast of Mackay. However, we did not see whales but a sea turtle and a Kestrel hunting and catching his prey!
    Chris has a boat and is a keen fisherman so he just couldn't leave out the marina & harbour which has just been repaired and sea walls renewed and made wider with more large rocks. The marina is next to sandy Harbour Beach and home to the Pine Islet Lighthouse, one of the only working kerosene lighthouses left in the world. The marina itself contains 328 berths, with six Mega Berths of 60-metre capacity and alongside vehicle access, 18 new big boat berths, which can hold boats of up to 38 metres and 32 fishing berths - plus one maintenance berth. We spent some time deciding which boat we were each going to keep! It was now coming to the highlight of the tour which was to head out to the Hibiscus Coast to hopefully see wallabies on the beach at dusk! The highway took us through this ruggedly scenic park which includes rainforest, eucalypt forest, beaches, rocky headlands covered in hoop pines and lovely beaches. We stopped at Seaforth beach front first and then on to Cape Hillsborough Beach which we hoped would provide one of the most iconic Australian photo backdrops, the famous “Roo on the beach.” Unfortunately we only had the beautiful beach and sun-setting over the Pacific - Roos decided not to show. We headed home for dinner on the verandah in the cool and watching the red lines of cane fires glowing in the dark below!
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  • Day62

    Mount Glorious, Moreton Bay

    November 5, 2017 in Australia ⋅ ⛅ 26 °C

    Clare decided to take us for a drive up to Mount Glorious which was lovely and very bendy! The views over the rainforest were amazing. We were going to stop on top at the village of Mount Glorious, but there were many, many motorbikes at the cafe where Clare planned to stop. We planned to turn round and come back but no space to do so; so we followed the road down the other side - going over beautiful creeks and views of Lake Wivenhoe. We finally stopped at Fernvale, with more bikies as their was a car & bike show today! Old Fernvale bakery advertised the best pies and over 120 fillings to choose from - there was a board inside that advertised Camel, kangaroo, crocodile, yak and Emu as well as Yarrow specials? Yummo!!Read more

  • Day58

    Brisbane Botanic Gardens, Mt. Coot-tha

    November 1, 2017 in Australia ⋅ ⛅ 22 °C

    Today Trev asked whether I would like to go up to the Botanic Gardens as we didn't have time when we came up last time to the look out. The Brisbane Botanic Gardens are recognised as Queensland's premier subtropical botanic gardens, displaying distinctly different gardens arranged in thematic and geographical displays. The themed sections include a fragrant garden, bamboo grove, arid zone, Japanese Gardens, waterfalls, 'Kitchen in the Garden', tropical dome and the largest collection of Australian native rainforest trees in the world. the Japanese Garden was designed by one of Japan's leading landscape architects, the late Kenzo Ogata, the theme of the garden is ‘tsuki-yama-chisen’ or 'mountain-pond-stream'. It features the key elements of stone, water, paths and vegetation.
    The path follows an S-shape curve. As you approach one vegetation area, the view of the next section is hidden. This adds an element of mystery or surprise for visitors.
    A warning is given about being careful and on the lookout for spiders and snakes!
    It is a beautiful area and we spent a couple of hours or more wandering around with a vague plan but occasionally, just going where the signs pointed - we could have spent a lot longer and still wouldn't have seen everything! Sarah intends to go back and visit the planetarium next time.
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  • Day56

    Back in Brisbane!

    October 30, 2017 in Australia ⋅ ⛅ 30 °C

    Weather did not look brilliant today. We decided to have a quiet day and have a breather after the busy 16 days. Washing done, catching up with travel log by adding photos and planning the trip to Mackay. Sarah took us out for lunch at Coffee Club and we topped up food shopping for Clare. We had Yoshi's company again. During the afternoon it tipped it down including hail, thunder and lightening!Read more

  • Day55


    October 29, 2017 in New Zealand ⋅ ☀️ 15 °C

    We left Hokitika after a late breakfast at Stellas and drove the 30 mins to Greymouth - very grey and very dead on a Sunday! We dropped the car, signed in luggage at the station and then tried to find something to do - so coffee, sit, wander around the local market, sit, walk along the warf, have lunch, sit and finally boarding time at 13.50! We should have stayed longer in Hokitika as there was absolutely NOTHING to do in Greymouth!!!
    The Trans Alpine is one of the world's great train journeys, transversing the Southern alps between Greymouth and Christchurch from the Tasman Sea to the Pacific Ocean, passing through Arthur's pass national Park. En route is a sequence of dramatic landscapes, from a lake fringed with cabbage trees, beech-forested river valleys, an 8.5 km tunnel ( where you are in the dark with no connections and no card machine only cash to pay at the cafe car), over via ducts and through smaller tunnels, through narrow alpine gorges and then finally to the flat, alluvial planes of Canterbury. Stops were made at a few place to pick up passengers and drop people off, the main one being Arthur's Pass, 737 metres above sea level. The 4 hr 30 mins journey is unforgettable - even though it was grey in Greymouth the sun soon came out and continued for the rest of the journey.
    We arrived in Christchurch about 6.30 pm and shared a shuttle bus with a number of fellow travellers. Again our driver was a character who hailed us with information stories and anecdotes while trying to negotiate the ever changing roadworks to the various drop-off points - we saw other areas and art works in the town that we hadn't seen on our first visit!
    Eventually arriving at the hotel at 7.00 pm, we booked in, booked a table for dinner at 7.30 pm and Trev did his back in having a shower! Just made the dinner booking and then worried if he'd be able to get out of bed in the morning for our early start at the airport!
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  • Day54

    Franz Josef & Hokitika, South Island

    October 28, 2017 in New Zealand ⋅ ☀️ 17 °C

    An early, light breakfast then walk up to Helicopter line tours for 8.30 am - weigh in and safety talk, then walk over the road to the helicopter - which our 'strap in' guide said was the most dangerous part of the journey! Straps on, headphones on and away we go! Up into the air, then the helicopter's nose tipped forward and it rose gently towards the 2 glaciers - amazing views of Mount Cook (Aoraki) and Mount Tasman and the Southern Alps. Due to rain in the area during the week there had been fresh snow fall. Our pilot, Clark explained how glaciers worked, and pointed out various features of interest throughout the flight as well as making us feel at ease. We went up Fox glacier and landed at the top, on the neves, taking first steps onto virgin snow - our pilot Clark took photos for us on our cameras as well as an official one. Surprisingly, it was really warm in the bright sunshine! He answered questions while we had around 5 - 10 minutes on the glacier. We then climbed back in the helicopter and prepared for take off. We went up again and crossed the mountains, people spotting in the snow below and Clark pointing out various landmarks adding extra information as we went down over Franz Joseph Glacier. Wow, Amazing, highlight of visit - though one of many!
    We collected the car and drove down through farmland, forests and prospecting country, stopping to get the last photos of the mountain at Lake Mapourika and seeing a rare white heron as we crossed Macdonald's Creek. We arrived at Hokitika feeling hungry, as we had found nowhere really to top up our breakfast at coffee time and headed for a local cafe Stellas for brunch - BLT and chips. We took a look around the town, visited the national kiwi centre and watched giant eels and Kiwis being fed; bought some Pounamu (Green stone) souvenirs and walked back to our seafront hotel along the beach. We then made sure that all the packing was done so that we only needed to open the small case at our last stop over, as the car goes back tomorrow - Bye bye Ken (KF start of number plate).
    Our evening meal was again at the hotel and our waiter, Steve was a local lad and was able to give us some tips for the next day as to where to go for lunch and what to see on the way into Greymouth. A last walk and sit along the beachfront before a coffee on our balcony and watching the sun go down with the sound of the sea gently rolling onto the beach.
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  • Day53

    Franz Josef , South Island

    October 27, 2017 in New Zealand ⋅ ☀️ 24 °C

    Well, we had another of our long drives today coming all the way north from Queenstown to Franz Josef 355 km (approx 4.41 hrs). We decided the best way to do this was share the driving and slot it into blocks. Trevor started and we kept aiming for townships only to find the route bypassed them. We stopped for the first time near Makarora which ended up nearer early lunch than coffee time - Trevor had stretched his legs at a lookout over Lake Wanaka (on the left of SH 6) just after driving the length of Lake Hawea (on the right of SH 6) as we missed the township of Wanaka itself! At this point we swapped driver and I did the next stage through the Haast pass and down to Haast township, where we remembered to turn off! For the first time in ages we had a pot of English Tea with a pot of hot water to top it up! As well as a piece of lovely carrot cake. Trevor did the next stage to Bruce Bay where we had gorgeous views over the Tasman sea and an ice cream. Last stage to Franz Josef done by me - a little bit windier than expected! Once settled at our hotel, with amazing views again, we went for a wander along the main street - as in Queenstown we did feel decidedly old. There were families and some people our age or older, but the main emphasis was as a centre for extreme sports / events - sky diving, etc. Again a lovely meal at the hotel restaurant - we noticed that if the restaurant has a view they sit diners so they can see it while eating their meal; turning tables on the slant, seating 2 people to sides and leaving the other sides clear etc.
    We have a flight at 9 am tomorrow to see the glaciers, before heading to Hokitika for once only an hour away and able to relax, spend time and shop for souvenirs.
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