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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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!
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:
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:
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:
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.
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.
Once again we were so lucky with the weather as we headed out onto the Hawkesbury River – destination the open sea and Sydney harbour.
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.
Leaving the safety of the Hawkesbury. Gaun’s first Australian sea adventure.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
We then headed to Manly to give Gaun her first Australian city beach experience.
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.
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.
The storm had given the sky some very lovely effects as evening approached.
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.
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.
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.