Thursday, February 28, 2008

TravelQuests complete

Today finished the third article on TravelQuest: Australia. It covers signs and other interesting things, including the war memorials in every town we visited. Tuesday dealt with the Top End, Darwin and Cairns.


Sunday, February 24, 2008

Where to go for the photos

My first TravelQuest article for the North Texas eNews is up today. Here's the URL. The remaining ones should go up Tuesday and Thursday.

It was hard to reduce 16 days and 270 photos into three articles and three dozen photos, but I didn't want anyone going to sleep. When I was a little girl, our neighbor traveled extensively in Mexico. He'd always bring home the movies, invite the neighborhood to supper, start the projector--and then go to sleep himself!

Really, you can't make up stuff like that.

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Caught up? Are you kidding?

I made a list Saturday with the first layer of things I needed to get done after we returned home. As of today, about 3/4 of it is crossed off. I still need to transfer the videocam film to DVD (unedited), but I have edited the over 250 photos and printed out about half--all right, all right--MORE than half of them. I ran out of paper. I still need to write the North Texas e-News articles which means more sifting through photos.

For us though, in this playing catch-up mode, there was an unexpected benefit of the writer's strike. Instead of recording 18 hours of programming and spending a week watching it while recording the new shows so we could watch all in order, I put but 6 hours on tape and one of those has proven unnecessary. If there weren't many new shows, then I had little to record. And thanks to Pacific Time TV schedules, we caught the first episode of LOST in a cafe outside the international gate in LAX. We steathily moved outselves from the far corner until we were sitting underneath the TV.

So we had but 4 hours to catch up on (FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS as well as LOST) and it was done by Monday night. So no excuses for vegging in front of the TV when I could really be cleaning house.

Oh, please. I think I'll just make another list.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Back in the USA

Saturday, Feb 16, 2008, 1:55PM, CST, Home in Texas

No more writing the "real" time now since we're home. Figured that from the time we left our hotel on our first Friday the 15th's morning until we walked through our front door at 9 pm on our second Friday the 15th's evening (love that International Date Line), we travelled 29 hours. First on the agenda: shower and feed the cats! Or was that in the opposite order? You know it was.

Our ordinarily stand-offish, how-dare-you-hold-me cat Pyewacket was a non-stop love machine last night. Every time I turned over, he seized the opportunity to wake me further and purr in my ear, want under the cover (he never does that), and bed down on my stomach. I guessed he missed me.

This morning as I was clearing out the mail, Tuxedo wouldn't stay off the table. Finally, I held him in my lap, belly to belly and stroked him with one hand while sorting envelopes with the other. Can you say spoiled?

We have returned to rain and thunder, budding trees, daffodils about to bloom. The laundry is almost washed, but I've not begun to tackle the paperwork necessary to close out the trip. Then there's the bills, the ironing, the gift-giving...

Always good to go. Always better to come home.


Thursday, February 14, 2008


Thursday, Feb 14, 2008, 5:15 PM, Charlestown, NSW, AU

Let's see... hmmm... yes, saw a roo or two today at the Blackbutt Reserve near here. True, they were in captivity, but in a large area and doing what they pleased, which was being annoyed with the emus and grazing. Hope the photos turn out well. Then we saw all manner of koalas and they posed most nicely.

Forgot to mention in this morning's post about our visit yesterday afternoon with folks we met on the Indian Pacific three years ago. We've kept up with them and they live at the entrance to the Hunter Valley. They invited us for tea. Great fun to catch up.

Almost packed and ready to begin the arduous journey home tomorrow. But first, a barbecue at our hosts'.

We are so glad to have had this opportunity to visit and see a new world. But we'll be ready to get back to our old one.

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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Hunter Valley

Thursday, Feb. 14, 2008, 9:07 AM, Charlestown, NSW, AU

Yesterday we toured through the Hunter Valley, one of Australia's premiere wine areas. It rained in the morning, but stopped shortly after noon. The area is very lush and the grapes are just to be picked. Stopped at cellar doors for companies we find in the US (DeBortoli, McWilliams) and those we don't (Cooper). Fun day.

Today we are off to a park and I heard the word 'kangaroo' being batted about. Maybe...?

Tonight is a barbecue and we have to--egad!--PACK! Tomorrow, we return the car and fly home.

One can have just so much fun, y'know, before you have to go home and rest up from vacation.

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The final leg

Wednesday, Feb 13, 2008, Charlestown, New South Wales, AU, 9:20 AM

Yesterday we flew from Cairns to Sydney, rented a car again, and began the tedious journey northward to my pen pal's home. There are many no-cash but-we'll-fine-you-big-time-if-you-don't-pay toll roads and we needed to avoid them as we didn't have the right sticker and the rental car company wasn't in the mood to provide such. Three hours later we emerged into Julie's cul-de-sac and scooted up the driveway to a warm welcome and a great fish and shrimp dinner.

Today we will explore the Hunter Valley wine district.

The view from our motel room is astounding: Lake Macquarie to the left, shrouded in fog 2 minutes after I saw it and wanted a photo!, a treed area in front with all sorts of strange bird sounds, and a city off in the distance like Brigadoon. It was a hard scene to view, but since someone has to do it, we tried hard not to smile as we volunteered.

Hard to believe we start for home in two days. We're trying to devise our perfect Australian trip if you can come but once, a combination of both our journeys, and I'll post it when we settle on it.

Again, g'day.

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Monday, February 11, 2008

On to Sydney!

Tuesday, 7:30 AM, February 12, 2008, Cairns, Queensland, AU

Just to spite us, the rain stopped mid-morning yesterday and only spit a couple of other times. Of course, we weren't at the Reef. We were visiting with a couple from Minneapolis, strolling through the shops, and viewing the Art Gallery. That's okay; I'm glad we rested up for the final phase.

We fly this morning to Sydney, get a car, and drive to see my pen pal of 45 years, Julie, and her family. We'll be with them until Friday when we fly home.

And I still haven't for sure seen a kangaroo in the wild. Talk about a tourist ploy!

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Sunday, February 10, 2008

Just call us very wet chickens

Monday, Feb 11, 2008, 8:20 AM, Cairns, Queensland, AU

'Tis the wet season in northern Australia and yesterday said 'wet' caught up with us. We had been sprinkled upon in Darwin, but it was pouring as we left. The weather was cloudy in Cairns until mid-day when the skies opened to Noah-rain. No thunder, no lightning, which is strange to us because that's the only way we get rain like this: accompanied by skyworks.

We have dragged a little umbrella all over and finally it has come in handy. But then, you know it rains a lot when even the driveways into parking garages have awnings so people walking down the street won't get wet.

We were to go out to the Great Barrier Reef today, but have cancelled. It was an hour in the bus to the boat once everyone was picked up and we weren't last, an hour and a half to the pontoon, 4 hours there, and then a reverse of all that. And, did I mention that it was RAINING?

Just call us chicken. Very, very, wet wet wet chickens.

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Saturday, February 09, 2008

Cairns: between mountain and ocean

Sunday, Feb 10, 2008, 11:30 AM, Cairns, Queensland AU

Really should look at a map before we venture out. Had no idea Cairns was between mountains and the ocean. Very lush looking with an Hawaiian feel. Full of shops and hotels and a big cruise ship docked at the wharf.

We've had an early day, being picked up at 5:30 am for our 7 am flight out of Darwin. The plane wasn't even half-full, but still it went! Yeah! But we are too early to check in to the hotel, so exploring instead.

The time changed on us again, this time by 30 minutes to the later. At least we are on the same minute time as at home now.

I have found an internet cafe with $3/hour rates and I'm taking advantage of it. Think I'll check the routine sites and see what's going on.

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The next time I'm in Darwin...

...I will:

1. Bring skirts. It's awfully hot for crops here.
2. Be prepared to have the most wonderful seafood meals ever!
3. Stay longer.

Can you guess we've enjoyed our short stay? We did a city tour this afternoon, but with an extra day, we'd have gone to one of the national parks outside the city.

Darwin is defined by two events, the Japanese bombing 19 Feb 1942 (I think that's the month) and Cyclone Tracy of December 1974. More later on those.

Airport shuttle gets us at 5:30 in the morning and we're off to Cairns.

Darwin, Northern Territory, AU, Saturday, Feb 9, 7:15 pm.

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Friday, February 08, 2008

Darwin at The Top End

Friday, Feb 8, 9:05 pm, Darwin, Northern Territory AU

If The Great Ocean Road was phase I and The Ghan Phase II, then we are now beginning Phase III, Darwin and Cairns, of our journey.

The Ghan adventure ended today and we are back on our diets since The Ghan dining car was full of wonderful meals and absolutely no restraint on our parts. While we did pass over the kangaroo steaks, we tried the camel. And no, it didn't taste like chicken, but like a dry beef. That and lamb sausage, which even our English dining partners had never had.

Speaking of no restraint, I know a little girl who has a stuffed animal camel toy being brought to her. There are some things even a grandmother can't resist. He is sooo cute.

Two tours off the train, a quick-stop see the sites tour of Alice and a river cruise up Katherine Gorge. Enjoyed them both, although the river cruise was by far the more scenic. Between Alice Springs and Darwin, the scenery changed from red-red desert to green grass, but still short trees. Termite mounds litter the fields, some of them several feet high and wide. And I thought we had a problem.

We will be having a city tour of Darwin tomorrow and taking off early for Cairns (Cans) on Sunday. This city is tropical and hot even at this time of evening. We arrived at dusk so haven't had a good view of it yet, although the hotel is on the water.

But duty has called and we are multi-tasking, doing laundry and email and blogging.


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Thursday, February 07, 2008

Take a camel to---no where

Thursday, Feb 7, 2008, 5:30 pm, Alice Springs, Northern Territory, AU

The symbol of the train, The Ghan, is the silihouette of the Afghan camel handler who helped to build the interior and the rail system of AU. I've taken lots of photos of such.

Many fun people on the train, mostly from the UK! Several have detrained here to visit Uluru (Ayres Rock) and we spent the afternoon on a visit to the high points of Alice Springs.

Have just been told that they're boarding the train and my time is running out. Tomorrow is a cruise of the Katherine River Gorge system and on into Darwin.

All well. And it's hot as... camel's breath.

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Tuesday, February 05, 2008


Tuesday, Feb 5, 6:50 PM, Adelaide, South Australia

We ended The Great Ocean Road yesterday and toured the Limestone Coast today. Several interesting little beach towns, such as Robe, where 16,500 Chinese came in in the 1800's and walked over 200 miles to the gold fields near Ballarat which is where we were Sunday. Hopefully, the pictures of the shore will be good.

Made good time to Adelaide and turned in the rental car. Whew! That left-handed driving is hard on the navigator too.

Tomorrow we're off on The Ghan to Alice Springs and Darwin by Friday. We settled on the tours we wish to take at Alice and then at Katherine in "the Top End."

I'm cataloguing the interesting (to me) road signs. Wombat crossing, anyone?

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Monday, February 04, 2008

The Great Ocean Road, Part II

Monday, Feb 4, Mt. Gambier, South Australia, 6:30 pm

The first thing to note is that when you cross into South Australia from Victoria, you set your watch back 30 minutes. Not an hour. Half an hour. Strange.

The Great Ocean Road was quite a trip today. Getting my driver to stop channeling his inner Steve McQueen around the twists and turns was a small challenge compared to getting into all the turn-outs in time to see the wonderful formations. The Twelve Apostles were a bit disappointing because they were shrouded in mist--and all 12 aren't available to be seen from the vantage point any way. Hummm. We shall have to buy a post card. The black flies were horrid.

Then a few miles up the road, we stumbled across an area just as spectacular. I can only hope that the photos do it justice.

Tomorrow we do the Limestone Coast in SA and end up in Adelaide. Wed morning we take out on The Ghan through the center of the country.

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Sunday, February 03, 2008

The Great Ocean Road, part I

Monday, Feb. 4 9:12 AM Lorne Victoria Australia

No way will our photos and videos and descriptions do justice to this experience. But of course, we'll try. Up until now, this section of the beach has been surfer's paradise, but I think that may be changing. Will know more as we travel.

Today we are headed around the bend that is the bottom of the state of Victoria to see The Twelve Apostles rock formation. If memory serves, I think one of them cracked or fell last year. I will have to look it up when I get home. In the meantime, I'll count.

Driving: Well, we arrived in one piece. It has taken both of us looking both ways and my white-knuckling to arrive. On the highway we are fine, but the cities are a bit wearing. Biggest problem for the driver: the windshield wipers are on the left side and the turn signals on the right, so unless he has time to think about it, he turns the wipers on instead of signaling.

We persevere.

Sat next to an Aussie couple with similar politics at breakfast. We exist everywhere.

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Saturday, February 02, 2008


Well, just a quick second post. I notice that Blogger is on American calendar time (as if!) and so the first post and this one will be dated Saturday, but it's not.

IT'S SUNDAY, February 3, when I write this, 8:45 am.


On the other side of the world

Well... not literally, but figuratively. Literally, the other side of the world from home is a few hundred (?) miles off the coast of Perth AU. And I know that because I looked it up when we were there 3 years ago.

But I'm close enough. We're in Melbourne (mel-bin for those in the know). We arrived yesterday after traveling 30 hours from home to airport to airport to bumpy, bumpy ride over the Pacific to the hotel. We walked around the Central Business District, or CBD, and were so amazed at the vitality of the area on a Saturday afternoon. Crowded--and if you neglected the accents, so like America in the products for sale.

How many Starbucks shops does one need in a three block area? Ah... three. None of them having an Australia mug since they're all sold out. I guess the Australian Open did it. SO much for my collection.

Bit of a problem over dinner because the cab driver couldn't find the restaurant and left us at a casino (per our request--get me out of here!) and the casino info desk hadn't heard of it and we had to have some sort of special card--not coins--to use the pay phone and I couldn't make my iPhone call correctly and we took another cab back to our hotel. That cabbie probably thought one of us had lost big at the casino and the other one was thoroughly mad because we didn't say a word. When he offered to take another route around the traffic and I said "as quickly as possible", he had a tale for his wife. Two cab rides, no dinner, and $25 later (AU$ but it's about parity), we were once again at the front desk. Then they told us if the cabbie can't find it, you don't pay him.

We walked to a restaurant.

This morning we start adventure number 2 when we rent a car and try to get out of the city.

Hopefully, I can continue to blog. If can email, I should be able to.

It's gorgeous weather and once again, it just FEELS different. And that's not lack of sleep talking.