I have been busy redesigning the blog so there has been a little delay in finalising this post. I hope it’s been worth waiting for.

Just to prove my last entry wasn’t a one-off here is part two of our trip to Australia. When I was selecting the photos to include in the blog I realised what a lot of ground we have covered and this will be a longer entry and may even extend to a Part 3!

When I left you in Part 1 we had just arrived at the South Coast after having a “meet the kangaroo” moment. We had arranged to spend a couple of nights with my sister, her husband and my niece at their lovely house on five acres just outside Milton, North of Ulladulla. For those of you who haven’t been that way Milton is definitely worth a visit. The village itself is now a very upmarket little place with heaps of nice looking restaurants, cafes and clothes shops. How the coast has changed over the years.

Pilgrim's Vegetarian restaurant

Pilgrim’s Vegetarian restaurant. Usually packed with both locals and visitors, which is always a good sign.

A decent coffee here

A decent coffee here and lots of yummy looking food stuff.

Milton Court House. History maintained - how unusual.

Milton Court House. History maintained – how unusual.

Having asked my friends and family to stock me up with non-Thai food during my Australian visit Louisa and Phil were kind enough to serve the best steak I have had in a very long time and some wonderful fresh home made fish and chips. Gaun is a keen farang food eater too as long as she gets her quota of rice from time to time. Louisa and Phil – we will be back!

The next stop was a night with Janet, a very good friend of mine, who lives in Nowra, about an hour North of Milton. The road from Milton to Nowra has been much improved over the years and goes through some beautiful rolling countryside.

South Coast countryside at its best

South Coast countryside at its best

On Janet’s recommendation we called into Huskisson, a small coastal town just South of Nowra as it is a pretty little place with a small harbour and also, you guessed it, for a feed of fish and chips.

Once again perfect weather. Australia at its best with sparkling, clean water.

Once again perfect weather. Australia at its best with sparkling, clean water. A great little harbour tucked away behind the beach.

Could almost be the Gold Coast but nicer.

Could almost be the Gold Coast but nicer.

Just so photogenic.

Just so photogenic.

The local dolphin watch boat. We almost went but decided to keep our water time for my brother's boat in Sydney.

The local dolphin watch boat on Jervis Bay. We almost went but decided to keep our water time for my brother’s boat in Sydney.

A sight you won;t see in Thailand. Beautifully maintained and clean BBQs with great views over the local coastline.

A sight you won’t see in Thailand. Beautifully maintained and clean BBQs with great views over the local coastline.

I think these were the same seagulls as the last fish and chip feed.

I think these were the same seagulls as the last fish and chip feed.

Finishing lunch we headed for Janet’s place and on the way we came across one of those sights Australian’s take for granted but was a photo moment for Gaun:

The one person, automatic garbage truck.

The one person, automatic garbage truck.

Thai cities have a reasonably efficient garbage system. Black plastic bags are dumped at various collection points and in my limited observations they seem to be mostly picked up every day. The truck is the old fashioned open back version with maybe three guys hanging off it hand loading the bags. They then open the bags to fish out any recyclable materials, which presumably they sell to supplement income. Not a job high on my list of working options.

Arriving at Janet’s house, which is situated on the outskirts on North Nowra overlooking bush, we took a short walk along her street which brought us to this wonderful view of the Shoalhaven river.

The Shoalhaven River viewed from the cliffs at the back in North Nowra.

The Shoalhaven River as viewed from the cliffs close to Janet’s house in North Nowra.

Getting back to the theme of eating Janet and Glen put a leg of lamb on the Webber, which had Gaun in a quandary because she loves meat but also has a soft spot for sheep, the live version of which has only made a recent appearance in her life. I certainly didn’t tell her that this was most likely a baby sheep otherwise I’d end up with a hungry Thai and that’s not a something anyone should experience in life!

"I pity sheep"

Gaun “I pity sheep”

The next day we headed off to drive to Sydney and my brother and sister-in-law’s house in the Blue Mountains. Our first photo stop moment was for these:

Not a big item in Thailand.

Not a big item in Thailand.

A small bundle of white in the grass, once woken, turned out to be a very young baby who was super interested in this strange Thai visitor. Obviously had only seen Aussies in its short life:

Still had the cord attached so very new to life.

Still had the cord attached so very new to life.

Baby thinking "now that's smaller and a different colour from what I've been seeing so far"

Baby thinking “now that’s smaller and a different colour from what I’ve been seeing so far”

The Princess Highway is having extensive improvements as you get closer to Wollongong and this provided Gaun with many photo opportunities. She still hasn’t got over the concept of farang doing manual labour, as I told you in Part 1 of this blog. Mind you the Australian concept of working isn’t too backbreaking all the time:

"See the footy last night mate?"

“See the footy last night mate?”

Our final stop along the way to the Blue Mountains was the Buddhist Nan Tien temple at Wollongong. I had knew of it but had never been so decided to pop in on the way. I have to say that I was disappointed, having now become an expert on Buddhist temples after my Thai travels. I guess the main difference is that Nan Tien is a Chinese Buddhist temple and seemed very “sterile” after the unique chaos and “homely” atmosphere of many Thai temples. It lacked character in my eyes anyway.

Nan Tien Temple, Wollongong. No photos allowed inside but I can assure not one grandfather clock, as you'd often see in Thailand!

Nan Tien Buddhist Temple, Wollongong. No photos allowed inside but I can assure you not one grandfather clock or temple dog in sight, as you’d often see in Thailand!

Safely in the Blue Mountains with a spaghetti carbonara dinner for me – thanks Sam – we planned for our final two weeks. Top of the list was a couple of nights on Richard and Sam’s catamaran, fishing and exploring Sydney harbour. On the Friday we packed what seemed to be an enormous quantity of stuff and headed off to Akuna Bay Marina in the Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park.

Loading up the boat.

Loading up the boat. Yes that is for two nights not a circumnavigation.

Once again we were so lucky with the weather as we headed out onto the Hawkesbury River – destination the open sea and Sydney harbour.

The driving wheel and other nautical termed thingees.

The driving wheel and other nautical termed thingees.

Richard and Sam are keen fisher people so the lines were out almost immediately and Gaun was introduced to the concept of open water fishing. This is a little different evidently to throwing a net into her sister’s pond on the farm. The idea of hunting for something that could then be eaten for free appealed immensely to Gaun as it would to any rural Thai person and she had a line in the water for most of the trip. Amazingly she brought wonderful fishing luck because there have never been so many fish caught as on this trip.

Gaun's first fish.

Gaun’s first fish.

Leaving the safety of the Hawkesbury. Gaun’s first Australian sea adventure.

Luckily we all have sea legs and handled the open sea with no problems.

Luckily we all have sea legs and handled the open sea with no problems.

First stop outside the Hawkesbury was a fish attracting buoy a couple of kms out to sea. It was here that we, well everyone except me as I am a fish eater not catcher!, brought on board these wonderful brightly coloured fish, the name of which escapes me ATM.

A very happy Gaun with dinner provided for.

A very happy Gaun with dinner provided for.

Someone can submit a comment and remind me what this fish is called.

Someone can submit a comment and remind me what this fish is called.

Me on the bridge with the captain and first officer.

Me on the bridge with the captain and first officer.

The trip from Hawkesbury to the Heads, Sydney harbour takes several hours but as it was a lovely day it was no hardship to be on the water. We replicated Captain Cook and sailed majestically through the Heads.

Reliving history.

Reliving history.

The captain had a mooring picked out just off Toronga Park Zoo, which is where they “park” for New Year’s Eve to get a sweeping view of the Sydney skyline for the fireworks. No fireworks this time but the view hadn’t moved.

Must be one of the most stunning harbours in the world.

Must be one of the most stunning harbours in the world. The view from our mooring.

Gaun had a line in the water before the anchor was down. I still shake my head at the incongruity of a small Isaan rice farmer dropping a fishing line into Sydney harbour with a backdrop of the Harbour Bridge and Opera House. It is a vision that I doubt many Thai people, well most people come to that, have experienced. What an amazing change we have both brought into each other’s lives.

She caught fish too.

She caught fish too. The BBQ on the right was well used for cooking freshly caught fish. Yum.

An Aussie finish to a hard day

An Aussie finish to a hard day. Not XXXX I notice. All a bit yuppie on “Grace”.

A quick trip on “Tink”, short for “Tinkerbell” – don’t tell the blokes at the pub – the small tender boat was called for as the sun set on a wonderful and unique day for all of us.

The Opera House and Queen Mary 2.

The Opera House and Queen Mary 2. I was left behind to take on the captain’s responsibilities with the help of a  glass of wine to steady the nerves.

The old against a backdrop of the new.

The old against a backdrop of the new.

The animals at the zoo were well behaved and not too noisy so a good night’s sleep was had by all after a big day on the water. “Grace” has a full kitchen, three bedrooms and a bathroom with shower so it wasn’t too basic for this older, retired public servant mariner.

Having breakfast the next day. Not a bad outlook.

Having breakfast the next day and no that isn’t cornflakes. Not a bad outlook.

A large flathead - yes I do remember the name of this species. It was put back as Richard felt it was a breeding fish. Gaun didn't let him forget the waste of good food for the rest of the trip :-)

A large flathead – yes I do remember the name of this species. It was put back as Richard felt it was a breeding fish. Gaun didn’t let him forget the waste of a good meal for the rest of the trip 🙂

Destination for the morning was to sail under the bridge, past Darling Harbour, under the Ultimo Bridge and to the Sydney fish markets on the other side.

Gaun meet the coat-hanger.

Gaun meets the coat-hanger.

Passing Sydney CBD and a moored cruise ship. The Queen Mary 2 was in the night before but left during the night so missed the photo opportunity.

Passing Sydney CBD, Circular Quay and a moored cruise ship. The Queen Mary 2 was in the day before but left during the night so I missed the photo opportunity. Would make this one look like a lifeboat.

Sydney Fish Markets.

Sydney Fish Markets.

A friend of Richard and Sam’s had phoned and suggested we have lunch on the boat using food bought at the markets. Richard did an impressive job of parking – I just throw the boating terminology out there for you to pick up – and the meter police get you even here. Pay to park.

"Grace" at the Fish Markets.

“Grace” and Gaun at the Fish Markets.

We then headed to Manly to give Gaun her first Australian city beach experience.

Gaun and Opera House. Who would have thought?

Gaun and Opera House. Who would have thought?

The P&O ship leave the harbour. Another old and new photo moment.

The P&O ship leaves the harbour. Another old and new photo moment.

The new fast sailing craze. Boy do they travel. They crash in a pretty spectacular way too. Both are fun to watch.

The new fast sailing craze. The whole hull is out of the water. Boy do they travel. They crash in a pretty spectacular way too. Both are fun to watch.

Moored off Manly.

Moored off Manly.

Richard's second love after his wife Sam - I think!

Richard’s second love after his wife Sam – or I think  it’s in that order!

Included for those sports lovers out there. There are things I do miss.

Included for those sports lovers out there. There are things I do miss, the clean sand and water being at the top of the list as shown in this photo.

Saturday evening’s mooring was to be off Mosman, some of the most expensive real estate suburbs in Australia and with the highest per capita income in Sydney. Oh la-de-da. We were sailing along to get there when this cloud formation appeared on the horizon.

Alien Invasion?

Alien Invasion?

Had it actually been an alien invasion we would have been OK because the Abbott government would have excluded the skies over Sydney as part of Australia and we would either have towed the aliens out to international deep space or set up an offearth processing centre on the Moon. A blow to the budget of course but we have to ensure due process as it is”we decide who comes into this country, and the circumstances in which they come”. Superman would have been the first to go.

As these storm clouds were accompanied by an impressive display of lightening and we were on the water with a huge metal mast it seemed that retreat was the best policy. We therefore headed as fast as we could to the nearest mooring area where we reduced the odds of being struck by mingling with lots of other boats with equally tall, or preferably taller, masts.

Crisis over we retraced our steps, or whatever the water equivalent is, and ended up at our previously planned destination and very nice it was too.

Moored off Mossman.

Moored off Mosman.

The storm had given the sky some very lovely effects as evening approached.

A rich person's sunset.

A rich person’s sunset.

Our final day on the water took us back through the Heads and out to sea for the run to the Hawkesbury, with a bit of fishing in-between. The only disappointment of the trip to date was that we hadn’t seen any dolphins. To Gaun they were something on TV and not for real, so it was a bit of a let-down to have missed a dolphin encounter.

However, on a trip that seemed to provide all the best aspects of Australia a pod of about twenty or more dolphins turned up, firstly spotted as they were feeding on a shoal of fish but then in a dolphin sort of way they decided to tag along with the boat for a while just for the fun of it.

What a graceful sight.

What a graceful sight.

We even had a couple of dolphins doing a good impression of creating a baby dolphin. As this is a "G' rated blog, except for the Manly beach girls, I couldn't publish those photos.

We even had a couple of dolphins doing an impression of having a damn good try at creating a baby dolphin. As this is a “G’ rated blog, except for the Manly beach girls, I couldn’t publish those photos.

There she blows or is that related to something else nautical.

There she blows or is that related to something else nautical?

So what else could top this off. Well how about 100 km gale force winds? OK, let’s include that then. Richard knew that a Southerly was on its way into Sydney and sure enough the clouds started to build in a very threatening way.

059-DSC_0741

An upcoming gale is no excuse to stop fishing.

An upcoming gale is no excuse to stop fishing.

Hmmm. Bunkered down on land is looking pretty attractive at this stage.

Hmmm. Bunkered down on land is looking pretty attractive at this stage.

When the storm did hit it was extremely severe. The sea went totally flat with the force of the winds, it was cold and you couldn’t see more than a short distance away. The radio was broadcasting distress calls coming in and the sea rescue responses to them. It was all like something out of a movie. Gaun and I decided to be the back-up crew and stayed inside in relative, if noisy comfort, while Richard and Sam got absolutely soaked and battered outside.

What the gale did show was the incredible stability of a catamaran over a conventional single hulled vessel. Although it was a slightly nervous time at no stage did one feel that the boat itself was in danger.

Excitement over we motored back to the safety of the Hawkesbury only to find that all power had been lost along the Northern suburbs and the direct road home was closed due to fallen trees. A memorable trip in so many ways and a HUGE thank you to Richard and Sam for making it happen.

I will bring this post to an end here before you fall asleep. I do have a couple of other interesting, to me, topics to cover which round off our Australian trip so might be motivated to publish those in a Part 3. If you want to order the series “Tony and Gaun in Australia” it will be available in a 10 pack DVD collection in time for Christmas.

Thanks for reading if you’re still are.