Friday, May 29, 2009

Last week in Southern hemisphere

So my last week here has been just great and I shall be sad to leave tomorrow - a week filled with new hospitality, new adventures, goldfields, outback, train journeys, sunshine, new people and even a bit of romance!
Quite the ending for this last 4 months!
I had a lovely visit with JoyAnne's friends Ian and Pam who live in Perth - their garden is lizard friendly and they had lots of blue tongued lizards lounging in the sun - they are growing their own vegetables and are very environmentaly aware - they built a house, then a boat and lived on the boat for 4 years - Joyanne met them in Tonga at that time - anyway had a lovely visit with them and Ian rode back to Kings Park with me.
Monday I took the train 700km to Kilgoorlie where the goldfields are - there is a massive "Super Pit" there and the town has a real frontier feel to it - "skimpys" in the bars and 3 brothels next to the backpacker!
It also has some lovely old buildings from the wealth of 110 years ago - and of course another side which is the new quite luxurious homes -
One of the things its famous for is that there is a pipe line to take the water there from Perth which has been there for almost 100 years - the earth is very red and the vegetation scrubby and very sage green and I was reminded on Utah. It is very flat. I visited the Flying Doctors base there which was interesting - its certainly a pretty essential service to these remote communities.
Back to Perth on Wednesday and visited the museum and then yesterday met up with Ian who I had met on Rottnest at the beginning of my time here - we had a great day together and enjoyed one another's company.
Today Peter took me to visit his work which was impressive - they have all these huge trucks being loaded with all manner of things which will be taken up to the NW corner of Oz. Quite the operation and lots of work!
So tomorrow I leave for Auckland at 7.30pm and then have Sunday in Auckland leaving Sunday night at 7.30 and arriving in Vancouver on Sunday afternoon at 2.30 - Amazing -
Then onto the next exciting installment on Angela's adventures.
so this time the challenge to write this was not my neighbour though there is some girl singing into the videocam on her computer - its the fact that the space bar doesn't work -
Oh for Mac!
Love and hugs

Friday, May 22, 2009

My Lucky Stars

So yes once again I am totally the lucky one! Had a wonderful 10 days down in the SW corner of Oz - great weather, great beaches, huge trees, spectacular scenery and wine tastings as well!

Left here on Sunday May 10. After leaving Peter's place I cycled along the Swan river (which seems more like an estuary) to the bus station in East Perth. Along the way there was a pod of dolphin really close to the path.
I watched the dolphins for a while and tried to get a good photo of a dolphin leaping with the city in the background but that wasn't so successful! Anyway got some pictures of a fin and the city!

I took a bus to Busselton about 4 hours south of Perth. Saw my first kangaroo on the way from the bus though actually since then I have seen lots though some were dead beside the road. Apparently they are a big problem at night just like the deer in Canada.
The bus/train system is impressive with helpful drivers and clean comfortable coaches, no hassles about taking my bike and no need to take wheels off etc -
Got there and went to the Backpacker I had booked into which was actually not very nice!
Anyway I survived and left the next day for Dunsborough which was just down the road and I checked in there and had a room to myself and only 2 other people staying there so that was lovely!
Went off to explore Cape Naturaliste which is the lighthouse at the north end of the Cape - There is a walking track from Cape to Cape which would be good to do as well -
Next day cycled down to Margaret River - stopped in Yallingup and watched the surfers in this tourquise water on this beautiful beach - the "Caves Road" which is one I took down to Augusta was rather narrow had to ride on the white line and only earth shoulders - anyway fortunately not much traffic and just undulating - a lovely ride into Margaret River - Along the way while I was going through the National forest I heard bagpipes being played - so stopped and went back to explore - found a chap playing away so had a nice chat with him and he piped me back to my bike!
Got to stay at a new Backpacker in Margaret River that was very decent - the town was pretty - a bit more upmarket than most around there in fact quite touristy with the wine industry as the major draw. So I booked on a 1/2 day wine tour and went to visit 4 boutique wineries and taste all sorts as well as visiting chocolate and nuts places - it was a good day out and we went though some lovely farmland and forests.

Left the next day and moved to another backpacker at Prevally Bay out on the coast about 15km from Margaret River and stayed at another really super nice place - stopped on the way at a big winery "Voyageur" which has lovely gardens - lots of roses - so chatted to one of the the horticulturalists and had coffee on the terrace and then a little wine tasting. All very civilized -

They were burning the ungrowth under the trees all over the place so the air was quite full of smoke. Went down to Augusta, about 40km south - stopped at the Jewel Caves which were spectacular - 850,000 years old - apparently quite recent in cave years - discovered just 50 years ago and with long "straws" hanging down from the ceiling that were just 1 mm thick - certainly no seismic activity around there.
Stayed in Augusta which is close to the bottom of the cape and cycled to Cape Leeuwin where the Indian and Southern oceans meet - it was lovely out there and the town of Augusta was nice with a lovely Backpacker too - The mouth of the Blackwood River is there and it was lovely with lots of huge pelicans and a stingray that must have had a wing span of at least 1 m.
Left on the bus on Sunday evening to travel 115 km to Pemberton - and then explored around there - Pemberton is a logging town and there is a famous fire lookout tree "Gloucester Tree" 61 m high with metal steps around its trunk so climbed that and got the great view - Walked in the Karri forests and generally had a great day finding all sorts of birds I hadn't seen before and taking lots of photos.
Cycled next day to Manjimup and the weather was changing so got a bit wet and experienced some head winds but nothing in comparison to the weather since I arrived in Perth! I just timed it right as Wednesday it was horizontal rain and super stormy.
Manjimup again is a logging town so went to visit the tree museum - reminders of Joni Mitchell - stayed at a very average B/Per and explored around there then took the bus and train the 300km back to Perth. 300km and $50 for bus and train ride - What a deal -

So have had a chance to do laundry and today visited the art gallery and have been on line here - Its been everso hard to concentrate though as I had a chap at the next computer who was talking to his potential lover"Tim" in USA! A very moronic conversation and very distracting. Crazy days.

So have booked to go on the train to Kalgoorlie on Monday and come back on Wednesday - this is 600km east of Perth and has a huge open pit gold mine - Its an old mining town in the outback and I thought would be a whole different look at Oz. Hopefully I will see Emu!

Weather is much cooler and intermittently really heavy downpours - Autumn is here!
Up until 2 days ago the weather here has been fabulous and I am looking forward to having spring and summer again in a weeks time!

Lucky suns and stars I guess!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Down Under

Well my reservations about visiting Perth have all been blown away - Its a wonderful city - the sun is shining and there are bike paths everywhere!
Peter met me at the airport - I had a very good flight with a lovely neighbour, a retired farmer and politician from NZ, coming to Oz for a Caving and Karst Conference - who knew there were such things - anyway we talked the whole way and dear Peter managed to get me, my bike and luggage as well as Derek and his bag into the car to drop Derek at his hotel downtown!

More great hospitality is happening - Peter and I probably saw one another 45 years ago which is scarey but true so it was lovely to see him and reminisce about playing in the garden on Yarmouth Road!
Peter now lives in a lovely home on the river right across from "DT Perth" with an uninterrupted view and about 100yds from the bike path.
On Saturday we went to Freemantle and wandered in that delightful little old town - had fish and chips and then got me maps and some tourist info so I can make a plan! Picked up a great bike map for Perth and surrounds and got a new sim card for the phone.

Peter is not going to the Kimberly and I'm not going on a "Road train" - instead I have explored Perth on my bike - Kings Park is the largest urban park anywhere in the world apparently - I did a tour of the botanical garden and still have to spend more time exploring there.
I did manage to get a booking for a hostel on Rottnest Island and have been there for 3 days this week. I cycled from Peter's to Freemantle - 30+Km all along the river - the Swan river is huge and seems more like an estuary or lake but they have done a fabulous job of keeping the shore line as park and creating the best bike path system I have ever seen -

Rottnest Island is 4km from Perth and originally was used as a jail for aboriginal people and then a military defence druing the war - now it is a sanctaury with only service vehicles allowed and everyone riding bicycles - It is 12km long and 8km at its widest. I stayed in a dorm room in the old Barracks for $25 a night and it was great - again met some interesting people -
There is a wide variety of accomodation available but mostly it looked pretty basic and I don't believe there are any private homes there.
But the main thing on the island is the amazing beaches and stunning scenery and the Quokkas.
These are the smallest marsupial and were initially wrongly identified as rats - hence the name of the island. Very cute of course but a bit scoungy around our accomodation and they kept managing to get into the kitchen and were really hard to shoo out!

Anyway its a little paradise and I cycled all around and about back and forth and had a great time - Got to see 2 fabulous sunsets from the 2 high points. Its probably pretty busy in Summertime with masses of people visiting by private boat but this week with beautiful weather and not many people it was really special.
I rented snorkel and fins one day and ventured out in the crystal clear tourquise water - managed to find a chap to take me out the first time and then went in again on my own later - I saw all sorts of fish and blooming coral and can see how people could get hooked on exploring the underwater -
Yesterday I came back to Perth and cycled a different route, going up the coast north of Freo and then cutting across into Perth - Riding beside this beautiful beach with white sand and tourquiose water was more of the spectacular! Certainly got to see all the humungous houses along the river - realy lifestyles of the rich and famous stuff - must be lots of money in Perth!

So now I am planning my next little excursion and took Colin and Gabrielle's advice and on the internet found a bike route that looks very doable - "The Great Escapade" Route - about 550km if thats what I end up doing - It goes from Bussleton past the wine region of Margaret River down the coast to Augusta - the SW corner of WA and then inland into less touristy parts, past huge trees and farmland I think and back up to Bunbury. So I have booked the bus on Sunday to take me to Busselton and then hope to start riding on Monday. Everyone says how lovely it is around there so hopefully the weather will continue to be gorgeous and it will be a great trip.

I have 3 weeks left in Oz so will make the most of this great experience! I even managed to update my wardrobe at the Sally Ann today so I shall feel like a new woman!

I found a lovely quote in one of Peter's books on Oz

"Nature has left us the most beautiful gift; the most wonderful opportunity. The standing of this generation will ultimately be measured not by the sophistication of our toys, or the grandeur of our structures. Our ability to preserve the integrity of nature's garden - that will be the true monument to our progress"
by Hugh Brown

I like that!
hugs to you all

The Time of My Life

Oh yes!
Since April 19 when I last entered I have written 50 pages in my journal highlighting the incridble hospitality I have received, interesting people I have met and the amazing scenery I have witnessed - flora and fauna, beaches and "no worries" Life couldn't get much better could it?
So to do a brief recap!
I left Wanda's on April 21 - walked part of the way up the mountain TeAroha - Mtn of Love - and got a great view over the mainly dairy farm land around there - then headed up on the highway right through Auckland to a place called Orewa which was close to where the ferry was leaving the next day to go to TiriTiri Matangi Island. Had booked to stay overnight on this nature reserve - they have dorm rooms/backpacker style in the old lighthouse buildings -
The island was fabulous - they have removed all the predators and reintroduced numerous birds and the kiwi and they are all flourishing so that was a treat. Saw saddlebacks, stitchbirds, robins, whitehjeads, bellbirds, tui, kokakos. karikari, and the Takahe which is a large flightless bird. I heard the kiwi at night but though we looked didn't see them though others did.
It was lovely when all the day visitors left and the place was so peaceful with only a few of us left overnight.
I had planned to leave in the morning so I could get to Ann and Dave Murphy's in Dargaville, Maureen's friends who had kindly invited me to stay but didn't realize the ferry only goes int he pm so managed to contact them and changed plans. Hopefully I can see them next time - or in Canada! So stayed at a backpacker where I was the only person and I only saw the owners as I was leaving the next morning! It was a nice house and I enjoyed the space! Wonderful statement about the safety of that area and the relaxed and casual way of life.
April 24
I stopped at the Kaori Museum in Matakohe and was amazed at the place and the size of the trees that had been taken down - one was 28' in diameter - the museum did a good job of showing the lifestyle of the loggers and gum diggers ( amber) - this area was settled my 10,000 "Dalmation" people in the 1,800's and there are still signs in Croation - stopped at a forest with the largest Kaori trees that are still standing and they were spectacular - huge fat trunks with the branches coming out of the top and pointing heavenward - apparently very valuable wood - and of course now not many left -
there are also some that were covered in a swamp/peat bog and they are digging up these stumps that are 45,000 years old - in fact one that they found has been carbon dated to 100,000 years.
The weather at this point and until I left NZ was cooler and wetter and windier - I had to take a ferry across an inlet and the wind was howling - I was thinking how if that was Denman I don''t think the ferry would have run! I stayed at a lovely backpackers - "The Tree House" which was surrounded by huge cottonwood trees with their leaves yellowed and fallinng off - so unusual to see this in NZ - It felt like autumn at home for sure! Anyway I had a wonderful room with a view out into lush NZ bush and agin met some really interesting people including the owners who had moved there 28 years ago and built the place and raised their children there - a very small and quite isolated community but famous for its artists and I visited the gallery which was just opening a show of Rachel Wilson's work - stunning and lots of social comment.
The day was very wet and blustery and I wandered my way up to Ahipara, hostel called "the Endless Summer" on a beautiful surf beach - a lovely old house that had kaori wood floors and balcony out the front that looked over the beach - pretty good for $25 a night.
Next day left at 8.30 for a tour up to Cape Reinga - Had wondered about driving up there myself but so glad I took this tour - the Maori chap Dennis who was our driver/guide was full of knowledge and we stopped at the Gum Museum then as wer got closer to Cape Reinga the sun came out - its a very beautiful headland - the NW tip pf NZ and is known in Maori tradition to be wehre the souls of the dead depart the earth slipping down on the roots of this old tree into the underworld - It is also where the 2 oceans meet - the Tasman and the South Pacific I thionk -
Anyway it was lovely. On the way back we stopped to sand surf down these huge dunes - I found myself on a hot pink plastic toboggan at the top of this big hill and got to the bottom very fast screaming the whole way especially as I hit a tuft of maram grass almost at the bottom and me and toboggann became airborn and separated - painful! I managed better the next time but by using your feet as brakes you get totally covered in sand - I was still finding it in my ears 3 showers/days later! crazy fun -
We drove back along the famous 90 mile beach which is actually 60 miles - stunningly beautiful and a great journey on the hard sand -
So Cape Reinga was one of the things I really wanted to see when I was in NZ and it was very worthwhile for me - the sun shining on me again. Oh lucky me -
April 28
So left there and headed south, stopping for a cup of tea with Colin and Gabrielle's friend Gene in Totara North - Jody was at work and Gene was very busy with the garden in the rain - they have a fabuylous vies away from it all in a lovely part of NZ -

So the next visit was with Jeanette and Lillian Olivant's friends Jean and David Morrison who very graciously invited me to stay with them in Paihia. I hadn't realized they own a lovely guest home called The Top fo the Bay - so you can imagine the view! It was very beautiful and they were incredible hosts. They had so many interesting stories of all sorts. They used to be farmers but had got bored with retirement and moved to Paihia and bought motels and apartments and are constantly working and on the go. They took me to the RSA club for a real Kiwi supper - including pavlova and the next night we had cold smoked lamb - from their son's farm - I got to languish in their hot tub and was treated like a queen! Home made bread, blackberry and apple pie and dear Jean even made brandy snaps for me!

I spent the morning exploring Russel which is across the inlet and a very old and interesting village where at the Catholic Mission they printed prayer books in Maori back in 1840's I think . That afternoon I went on a Dolphin watching and Bay of Islands tour. We didn't make it out to the Hole in the Rock as the seas were raging but in the bay saw dolphins and some of the people did go swimming with them. I was happy to be watching and not to have to get in the cold water and everso happy we didn't go out into the wild seas!
It was a lovely visit and I do hope they will visit Canada again so I can attemp to return some of their fabulous hospitiality.

The next day, April 29, I visited the Waitangi Treaty grounds which are next to Pahia then headed to Whangerei in search of a hair stylist! Not the best but not the worst I had and at least I got it done.
I stopped in Waipu - oh what a funny name - and happened upon a really interesting museum - 1,000 Scottish people had settled there having originally emigrated to Canada, Nova Scotia, then Cape Breton in the early 1,800's and eventually not feeling happy with things there continuing on and ending up on N. Island NZ -
What resiliant and hardy people they were - once again I feel so sorry for those women with their children and no food etc - the hardshipe must have been immense. Anyway its a very Scottish little community still.

My stay in NZ is rapidly coming to a close at this point - I decided not to go into Auckland but instead stayed at the hostel in Orewa again which was only 35km from the airport - that worked out well - got to do my laundry, wrote the last of the NZ PC's and mailed my guide book and various things I'd collected up back to Canada. Had a lovely evening walk on this huge surfing beach and took myself out for supper, which I really hadn't done since I arrived.

I am feeling very releived as Peter will in fact be in Perth and is going to meet me at the airport. I had made arrangements with a Warm Showers person but am really happy that Peter will be around after all.

My stay in NZ had been extraordinary - so many spectacular things to see and so many wonderful honest to goodness lovely people I have met. The hospitality has been more than I could ever have imagined and I feel truly blessed to have had this experience.
It will stay with me forever.