Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Thank God for ABC Radio

Six weeks on the road finished last night at around 11pm when MDR & MB rolled back into Cairns. The final leg yesterday from Rockhampton was nearly 12 hours (with meal breaks). Being able to listen to the ABC is a godsend when you're captive in the car, yesterday on the Book Show (RN), we listened to the author Simon Nasht, who has just released a biography of Hubert Wilkins. If you have heard of Wilkins then you are way ahead of this blogger. Simon Nasht has written a biography of this amazing Australian. Cairns Library has bought a copy, MB is second in the queue so she''ll be reading this one soon.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Berry Bounty

MB finally found a U-Pick Berry Farm, she's been yearning for some fresh berries ever since leaving NQ.
This one was advertised as 30mins from Batemans Bay (on the NSW south coast), so after leaving Batemans for Sydney yesterday, we detoured to the berry farm for a berry feast.
We followed the directions given on the brochure, once off the highway we had to drive on an 11km dirt road, normally this isn't a problem but this one was extremely corrugated and rough in some sections, it was quite a ride just getting there, and much longer than the advertised time of course.
The ride was worth it though. We got to pick blueberries, raspberries and blackberries. Of course we were told we could taste them but "feasting" was not permitted.
We certainly tasted them, many more than we actually picked. Nothing can compare to the taste of a freshly picked, ripe berry, the flavour is just divine.
Photo shows a laden blueberry bush. MB also bought some of their white peaches which are also divine, their flavour is out of this world and far exceeds anything that you could buy in the shops.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

The Scoop

These mysterious left-hand drive batmobiles with the fibreglass over-panels were spotted driving up and down the Perisher road with navigators glued to their laptop computers.
They happen to be staying at our units in Jindabyne where 4 of the 8 cars were found at the back of the car park without dust covers.
MDR approached one of the blond Nordic technicians sitting at his laptop in one parked car who was very circumspect and said he couldn't say what the car was.
A little Sherlock Holmes investigation by MDR revealed they are likely to be the latest unreleased model of a well known Swedish sedan under extensive on-road testing away from their European competitors' eyes.

Blue Lake, Snowy Mountains

Charlotte Pass to Blue Lake

MDR & MB tackled the walk from Charlotte Pass to Blue Lake today. This is a 10km round trip (across the Snowy River), with most of the first leg uphill so it was quite a workout. This trail was much quieter than the Mt Kosciuzko one which we walked last week.
We were better organised this time, took some lunch with us and stopped at the lake for lunch, the views were awesome, there were even small patches of snow visible. Pictured is Marc at the Snowy River collecting flies with his cap.

Big Trout

Passed through Adaminaby yesterday on our way to the Yarrangobilly Caves. The Big Trout dominates this tiny township near Lake Eucumbene. Haven't seen a live trout yet, MDR tried his luck fishing on Lake Jindabyne but to no avail.
The caves were excellent, we went on a guided tour of the "Jersey" Cave, only a small group of about 14 people, mostly well behaved except for the young boy in front of MB who couldn't resist putting his finger in the completely still pool of water that was reflecting the stalactites above it. There was also a thermal pool nearby, with the water a constant 27c. On the way back from visiting the thermal pool we spotted a male lyrebird. We heard it first, mimicking other birds, then saw it about 5m away from us, an amazing sight, these are such elusive creatures. No photo though, it was too shy.

Some cave photos on Flickr:

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Bush Tucker

Some mushies we scavenged from the emerald green parkland adjacent to the Snowy Hydro Visitor Centre in Cooma. The rest of the town, in fact the entire region, is absolutely parched.

Wishful Thinking

Spotted the "Hawaii Motel" on the main road in Cooma. MB believes this to be a very exaggerated claim. MB has been enjoying motel spotting along the way, with the ones offering such modern amenities as "colour television" and "fax machine" being the most notable.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Lake Jindabyne

Our lodgings in Jindabyne are nicely located on the lakeside, with lovely serene views over the grounds down to the lake. On our first morning here, right on the dot at 9:00am a huge roar started coming from the lake.
Looking down to the lake we could see lots of fancy speedboats racing around the lake with water skiiers in tow.
We discovered today that Jindabyne hosts the Australian National Speedboat Championships every year. The boats are something else, this is really a sport for only the very well heeled. I don't know how those water skiiers can hold on at the speeds they're doing, truly amazing!

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Mt Kosciuszko

Two milestones today; MB turned 43 and walked to the summit of Australia's highest mountain.
The digicam ran out of battery after only one photo on the trail, godammit. The walk is amazingly comfortable, y
ou catch a chairlift at Thredbo which takes you up the steep part and then there is a wonderful wide track made of raised metal grating. The 13km round trip to the summit takes 4 hours. There's even a portaloo about 1.5km from the summit!
Warmish day, strong headwind walking up, and a tailwind on the way down. The cold wind froze MB's ears and she had to use her overshirt as a scarf to hold her hat brim over her ears, so that she resembled an asian fishwife. MB did a search for some more photos taken on the trail but could only find this funny post about the same walk, from a Taiwanese blogger, poor chappie didn't know about the chairlift. http://taycheemeng.blogspot.com/2005/06/mount-kosciuszko.html
MDR in the photo feeding squashed march flies to the little fish in the babbling brook.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

The ol' Homestead in Cooma

The road today trip took us from Canberra to Jindabyne. Stopped at Cooma for a major nostalgia trip for MDR. Pictured is the first house he ever lived in, MDR visited the new occupants and had a bit of a yarn with them.
We had a good look all over town and visited all of his old haunts, including the Savoy Cinema and the Barbershop which are apparently unchanged from the 1960's.
We were going to have a giant burger at the shop recommended by Sue Greb but after our "snack" at Bungendore at 11am we couldn't eat for about 8 hours. Portion control at the cafe we visited in Bungendore is a very foreign concept! Bungedore is another charming little old town near Canberra. It has some great secondhand bookshops and also a fantastic art and timber work gallery.

New Parliament House

We did a drive by today of both the old and new houses of parliament. The new one is quite a sight.
We also stopped by the National Rose Garden which was rather disappointing, it was looking very neglected, unlike the rest of Canberra.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006


Monday 9 January 2006: Drove from Sydney to Canberra, a surprisingly short trip of under 3 hours. The temperature steadily increased the further inland we went (it's 36c here today, 10 Jan). After finding some accom. Marc did a ring around the confirm there was a Monday night game of UWH. After a bunch of calls to out of date phone numbers gleaned from the internet, he eventually called someone in Wollongong who was able to give him the information needed and yes there was a game at Tuggeranong, 20klm south of the city.

While MDR played, MB went to the beautiful lake next door for a lake walk, very pretty with lots of ducks and black swans. Daylight savings really works here, being able to walk in daylight at 8pm is really a novelty for us North Queenslanders.

First excursion today was to the Royal Australian Mint. MDR made all the usual "dad" jokes about scooping up coins from the production line etc, then on the way in the security guard searched MDR's backpack. The Mint is very interesting, we got to see the actual production of coins as well as a lot of static exhibits with historical and commemorative coinage, including Sydney Olympic medals. The photo shows a mock-up of proposed coins when our currency went decimal, these are from a competition, there were 4 sets on show. MB liked the 10c coin with the Kookaburra eliminating yet another hated snake.

MB also got to "produce" an uncirculated one dollar coin on a coin stamping machine, but only after paying $2.50 for the privilege. At the entry to the souvenir shop is a hoard of coins and MB couldn't help but be reminded of her brother with his metal detector, the machine would have went beserk in there.

After our Mint visit, we drove over to Lake Burley Griffin for a looksee then into the city to pick up a bento lunchbox at Tasuke in Canberra city, after checking the lunch menu in the window we went in to order but were given a dinner menu. When we asked for the lunch menu we were told it wasn't available until next week. So we went up the road and had a kebab instead.

Canberra is a very pretty city, reminiscent of a lakeside European city in say Switzerland. There are large stretches of parkland with beautiful deciduous trees, very wide and circuitous roads and lots of boxy buildings.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Neutral Bay

I love Neutral Bay. We are not more than 100m from scores of restaurants and every other sort of shop and facility, even the Sydney Harbour Bridge is nearby. Taronga Park Zoo is nearby too.

Last night we went to the movies at the Orpheum on Military Rd, the most gorgeous art-deco cinema I've ever seen, which is only 10mins away by foot. Got to see Mrs Henderson Presents, a great new British movie with Judi Dench and Bob Hoskins. After the movie we walked back and had to agonize over where to grab some dinner, ended up going to a gourmet pizza place, after seeing their beautiful pizzas through the windows on diners' tables, we weren't disappointed either.

Sure it's noisy here, we're one block back from Military Rd which is a major feeder to the City and we have Neutral Bay Fire Station nearby, but we're getting used to it!

After I lost my mobile phone I merely had a take a 2 minute walk up to Military Road and get a new one at the Telstra shop. I didn't have to worry about the traffic and car parking and best of all no waiting in a queue in the shop. The chap in the shop was incredibly helpful, he virtually re-furbished my old Nokia brick on the spot (at no charge) so it wouldn't keep switching itself off.

We caught a ferry to Neutral Bay yesterday from Circular Quay in the city. At the Neutral Bay Wharf is a little restaurant called "Thelma & Louise", we hadn't had lunch so stopped in there for a marvellous seafood lunch while seated on a deck over the water. Perfectly nice day with a gentle breeze, just heavenly. After lunch we caught the bus at the door that took us up the hill back to Military Rd, really could have walked it (I won't make any lame excuses here).

So yes we are really enjoying all those big city conveniences, great public transport and taxis, public spaces, shopping, people watching and I guess, lots of pollution too! Speaking of public spaces the Sydney Library in the old Customs House opposite Circular Quay is absolutely stunning, has to be seen to be believed.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Across the Sydney Harbour Bridge

One thing MB has always wanted to do in Sydney is to walk across the Bridge, via the pedestrian walkway on the Opera House side of the Bridge. There is a Bridge Climb tour which costs an arm and a leg but MB just wanted to cross over on the public walkway. It's quite difficult finding information on accessing the walkway, I guess it's not hugely popular.

Fortunately Marc knew where it started on the North side, so we drove down the hill from our apartment in Neutral Bay to Kiribilli where we found the cheapest parking so far in Sydney! The steps to the walkway begin just past Milsons Point train station.

We walked across in about 20 mins, quite a few other folks doing the walk too, along with an obligatory security guard. On the city side you come out at the top of the Rocks into Cumberland St. There was a little tourist info. sign there that calls the bridge walk, the "Cahill Walk", couldn't find anything about this though in any of the tourist information flyers and books we checked beforehand.

Great views from the Bridge, although it was rather overcast and drizzling when we walked across. One can really appreciate the massive size of the bridge from the walkway, makes you feel like a tiny ant.

Friendly Flatmates - Colourful Characters

Little did we know we'd be sharing our holiday apartment with some very friendly, jolly little lorikeets, pictured here feasting on some fruit on our kitchen windowsill. They are very partial to cherries.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Sydney Harbour Walk

Wed 4 Jan 06: Commenced initial 2 hour exploration of Sydney Harbour on foot, started at Kirribilli (home suburb of the Australian Prime Minister), walked under the Sydney Harbour Bridge on a meandering path which took us past the North Sydney Olympic Pool (in photo above), which looks charmingly art deco, then past Luna Park.

The weather conditions were perfect, overcast and only 21c, walked all the way to the Sawmillers Reserve at Blues Point. We completed the loop by returning via the suburbs that fringe the harbour. Loads of gorgeous little historic cottages, narrow streets and cute corner stores.

MDR was able to describe to MB the provenance of every major vessel that happened to be in view on the harbour.

After our little trek we returned to Neutral Bay at around 7pm, then had the agonising decision of where to dine, there are countless restaurants within walking distance of our apartment. Settled on Japanese at Samurai Sushi, in Military Road. Great choice, it's a new restaurant so the service was awesome and the food was very generous and tasty, although MB was a little bemused with two of the specials of the day, the Robster Sushi Salad or the Soft Sell Crab!

Sunday, January 01, 2006

First day of 2006

A truly memorable New Year's Day in Sydney, a massive heatwave had us sizzling at 44c. If MB received a dollar each time MDR said "Bloody hell it's hot!" she'd be very well off indeed. The hottest first day of January on record.

Our strategy to escape the toe-curling heat was to go to the Mall for lunch and a movie, so we plugged Darlene in, told her to take us to Ultimo and drove over to Broadway Mall (one of the few Malls open on New Year's day). Quite a few others had the same idea too, but it wasn't as overrun as expected. There was a queue at the cinema, so we queued up for tickets to catch a movie after lunch.

We found a Japanese restaurant in the centre, Tomodachi. By then it was after 1:30pm and MB was feeling pretty hungry (which also translates as "grumpy"), if she had to wait any longer for her lunch she would have cracked. After a bit of a wait getting our order in we had a very good lunch, excellent in fact, their lunchboxes are great value.

Went back to the cinema to see a new British movie starring Judi Dench "Mrs Henderson Presents". The cinema was packed and the air-conditioning wasn't working, so after 20 mins we gave up and left. The cinema folks, to their credit, gave us a bunch a free tickets instead of a refund.

After a bit of a browse we thought we'd try our luck at the Maritime Museum in Darling Harbour. We were lucky to get a parking spot close to the entrance, just walking from the car to the Museum was an exercise in endurance, the intensity of the heat was astounding. The Maritime Museum had a special Viking exhibit which was rather good, even better though was the air-con!

The heat didn't let up until a cool change arrived at 9:30pm, the temp. rapidly dropped from 41c at 9pm to 20 something after the change. This change bought gusty winds, which were nearly cyclonic in intensity, causing lots of trees to fall over and other wind damage throughout NSW.

MB was so worried about the pussycats at Frenchs, but they made it through the scorcher unscathed and definitely didn't lose their appetites.