Please, no more flights

We were collected just after 11 to board our flight from Hong Kong to LA. While I wouldn’t want the hassle of being in a brace again – or having any sort of injury while flying for that matter – being able to get through security and board the plane before everyone else has been great.

We settled in, I got comfortable, we took off, they served us food and then we went to sleep. The problem with taking the overnight flights is that you can’t get into the right sleeping pattern for Canada.

Leaving at midnight Hong Kong time means it’s midday in Toronto so if we stayed awake until, let’s say, 9pm Toronto time then went to sleep, that would leave us with about five hours to get some sleep. Really, that would be three what with being woken up for breakfast and then preparing for landing.

Screw that. We went to sleep and subsequently spent most of the flight unconscious. Woke up for breakfast (Glen cheerfully telling me he’d had duck noodles during the flight), watched more episodes of The Mindy Project and then it was time to land.

We were collected at the gate and wheeled through LAX, getting through border control with relative ease, and then taken to the other terminal after collecting and dropping off our luggage. Glen got our new boarding passes while I waited for a wheelchair with a bunch of other people. Glen came back saying we weren’t sitting with each other but at least the seats looked suitable.

Someone else collected us and took us through security. While Perth and Hong Kong were both fairly lax with patting me down, the US gave me a full over service. I had to stand, take out my crutches and pillows and submit to a full-on body search. It was not pleasant. From there we went to the Admiral’s Club lounge. It’s not the best but at least it was a nicer place to sit for a while. Then, when it closed, we were collected again and taken to the gate and boarded.

We had “First” class seats for this flight but really it’s more like Premium Economy in that you have wider seats and a bit more leg room. US Domestic Flights don’t go all out and Australia has a much better product.

I sat at the front, which allowed me to stick my leg out completely in front of me and into the aisle without obstructing anyone. The woman sitting next to me was an ObGyn from Virginia and we had a brief but interesting chat about US politics before the plane took off (about 15 minutes late) and we all tried to get some sleep (it was about 1am when we left).

I managed to sleep for about half the flight but the second half was uncomfortable. Being unable to keep my leg up meant I was putting pressure on it into the floor. I took painkillers but it didn’t go completely. Still, it could have been worse and eventually we landed.

We had a really tight turn around in Chicago of only an hour and as we took off late, we were worried we wouldn’t meet our connecting flight. If that had happened, I might have gone a bit crazy as by that stage I was thoroughly sick of being on planes and in airports.

Despite waiting on the jet bridge until everyone had got off before a wheelchair arrived, and a delay at the gate as to who was going to take me across the airport, we managed to get through about half of O’Hare Airport to our flight to Toronto. Even our luggage made it in time.

I’d been given seat 6A but when I got on the tiny, tiny plane it was obvious to see that sitting in that seat was not going to be possible. I thought I could just stick my leg in the aisle but the flight attendant said that wouldn’t be possible. Luckily, the person in 1A was late and they stopped her at the gate and swapped her seat.

I lowered myself in and stuck my leg out, as comfortable as I was ever going to be. If I hadn’t been able to move myself from the chair and across the platform, I don’t know what would have happened. The plane was so small!

After taking off, I inched my way down to the back of the plane to use the loo. I can’t lift my leg so I have to drag it behind me. I was walking along the aisle, gripping onto the overhead baggage area, much like you would if you were doing one of those high-ropes courses. Then when I got down to the end, the light in the toilet didn’t work so that meant sitting down and jamming myself into this confined space. I came out of it alright but it was another experience.

When we were coming into Toronto, I couldn’t see the CN Tower or any of the familiar skyline, but nevertheless a big smile broke across my face. I was in Toronto again and it was a beautiful day. Plus, we’d made it. Through nearly 45 hours of impeded travel, we’d gone halfway around the world.

Collected once more, we sailed through border control. The officer asked why we’d want to come back to Canada. “Because it’s awesome,” I said. We got through without trouble. Our luggage was waiting for us. Glen collected it and we were taken out to the passenger loading area where we waited for Julian.

He pulled up in his car, wheelchair in the back, gave us hugs and then we were on our way, zooming along the Gairdner and the 40-something to Downtown Toronto. It’s not a pretty city, by any stretch of the imagination. Steel-and-glass buildings everywhere, a bit rundown in places and the whole thing lacking in an overall vision of what the city should look like, but it felt good to see it again. It felt like we’d never left.

Julian had picked up a wheelchair with a leg support so I didn’t have to use the crutches to keep my leg up. Wonderful invention. We hung out at Julian’s for a while and then he went for a suit fitting, while Glen and I committed the cardinal sin of travelling: we had a nap.

Honestly, we could barely keep our eyes open, but 3-4 hours later we felt even worse and trying to wake up at that point was torture. Still, we rallied and then had the long discussion about what to have for dinner. Bec and Al and Pete and Royden were brought into the conversation so soon people arrived and it was just like old times, like we’d seen everyone only the week before.

They went off to get food from Oja while I stayed behind and watched The Money Pit. Al popped in and we caught up, then the food returned and before we knew it, it was 10pm. I’d forgotten that with daylight savings in full effect, it’s still light until at least 8, if not 9. How marvellous.

After everyone left, we finished the movie then moved down to the guest suite and climbed into bed. Getting proper sleep never looked so good.

We’ve had to modify plans for the rest of our trip, and I’m not all that keen on getting out and about, but will make myself or else I’ll spend ten days looking out Julian’s balcony at the Marriott building. I’m glad we’re here, even with all the hassle.

The Things We Do For The One We Love

On Wednesday, while cycling to work on wet paths, I took a 90° turn which ended with my bike going one way and me smashing my knees and hands on the ground. People stopped and helped me up. My bike was fine. I was less than fine. Luckily I’d been wearing full gloves so only had a minor graze on one palm, and had been wearing long pants so my knees were barely cut up. All the damage was on the inside.

Not wanting to cause a fuss and not able to see there might be another way of doing things at that moment, I hobbled back to Elizabeth Quay and caught the ferry across to South Perth. The skipper and a transport officer helped me out with a bit of first aid, and then when I got to the other side, I eventually got to walk. I then sat down and had a pack of frozen blueberries placed on my knee. I’d be fine, I thought. Up in no time. It’s just a bruise.

I called Glen who was working at the right hospital and he suggested I come in for an x-ray. This is a big deal for him as last time I thought I broke my finger (and had) he was less than enthusiastic. Lisa drove me to the hospital and then I was wheeled into emergency. X-rays later revealed no fractures to my hand (and I’m hoping that’s still the case considering how purple they now are) but three fractures in my right patella. With a flight to Canada booked for that Saturday, I was less than pleased with this diagnosis. Management? Keep it in a Richard Splint for 3-6 weeks, i.e. keep it straight.

Glen took me home, plonked me on the couch and went back to work. I then went to work cancelling portions of our upcoming trip. We were going to go to Arizona to see Antelope and Grand Canyons and go walking in Sedona. I cancelled the hotels and the car and the tours. We thought that, considering we were flying business class most of the way, that I’d be able to make this 45-hour journey, perhaps not in comfort but in some way that wouldn’t result in extra damage to my knee or me going insane. People have travelled with worse, I’m sure.

I spent three days on the couch, the pain gradually going down while maintaining the discomfort of keeping my leg straight. Each day I re-evaluated the trip. Could we actually do this? Was it even worth it? Glen looked positively stricken when, on Thursday evening, I said I’d cancel the trip. He was not a happy chappy, but, not wanting to ruin his holiday too, I said we’d see what it was like on Friday and Saturday.

Which reminded me of when I had my wisdom teeth out. Twenty-four hours after having them removed, Glen begged me to go to his radiology dinner. You’d think have gaping holes in your jaw would be enough to get you out of going to something like this. Still, I went, dosed up to the eyeballs on painkillers and sitting there squishing fish against the roof of my mouth because I couldn’t chew without wanting to punch myself. I made it through dessert before finally succumbing to the need to go home.

This trip is Wisdom Teeth 2.0.

Three days of sitting on the couch watching TV (when I should be writing and doing all sorts of other stuff) was actually recuperative. Not enough to have a fully healed leg but enough to be not all that unpleasant. Still, the impending 45-hour journey filled me with dread. Still, I agreed and so on Saturday we packed, prepared the house and then Dad drove us to the airport.

The Drunken Rockstar Treatment

When we arrived at the airport, Glen wheeled the luggage inside and went over to the counter to start checking us in. I slowly made my way over on crutches but must have looked awkward enough that a woman from Qatar came to my aid with a wheelchair. I sat on one of the crutches to form a leg support so it sticks out.

At the counter, staff began to gather, asking for a doctor’s note etc and then reorganising seats so Glen and I could sit together. We were separated at first but they said they’d ask the person who had the seat next to me if they’d mind moving. Very glad they did.

Glen then wheeled me up through to departures, with me holding onto our rolling carry-on and it trailing along behind us. We got through border control and then checked off at security screen. I got patted down, despite me telling them I could go through the metal detector. I’m glad they said no as it would have been a pain.

This whole not trying to make a fuss thing ends up making more fuss than not. I should just accept their help as they’ve done this a lot more than I have and we could all get through it a lot quicker without the discussion. Hard lesson to learn though.

We then went to the lounge and spent an hour there before someone came to collect me for boarding. We got taken straight through before everyone else and I settled into my seat in the first row. I then adjusted the seat to make sure I could actually be comfortable.

Even though we’re flying business, it’s not as comfortable in my situation as I would have hoped for. The footrest is a little too far forward so without extending the seat, I wasn’t able to elevate it easily and sit back in my chair. I rested my foot on the floor and then, following take off, adjusted everything to some level of comfort. There was a sweet spot eventually.

We had supper while I watched Pride and Prejudice and Zombies then went to sleep for a few hours, waking up to breakfast. Now that I’m less mobile, and will be for a while, I’m concerned I’m going to start stacking on the weight. I have little will power so it’s going to be tough.

When we landed there was a wheelchair waiting for me. We had a 17-hour delay (the airline had changed our flights a few weeks ago much to our horror) so there was a bit of a delay about what we were going to do for 17 hours. Originally we’d wanted to go look around Hong Kong but that was out. Glen suggested Disneyland, which was close, but we were both tired and we’d (finally) realised that I wasn’t as mobile as we’d hoped. Instead, we said we’d go to the Regal Airport Hotel and try to get a room.

Despite saying I could use my crutches, the guy pushing my wheelchair took us all the way through Immigration and then over the carpark to the hotel. I was so grateful as it was a hell of a long way. Unfortunately the hotel was fully booked until 12. I think I may have wanted to cry at that stage. We decided to sit at the lounge in the hotel for a little while. Glen looked for a nearby hotel, while I lurched to the loo.

When I came back I missed my crutch and had to catch myself on my bad knee, the shock and the fear that I’d done further damage to my knee, making me even less certain about what the hell we were doing. While it’s not too late to turn back, the hassle of doing so and the expense seemed even bigger than the unpleasantness of the travel ahead. People have done worse, I can survive this…but did we actually want to?

Hong Kong Layover

The nearest hotel, the Marriott, was also booked out. Instead, Glen went back to reception and put his name down for a room. We then sat in the lounge for a few hours. I asked Glen to check at 11 whether the room was available, and praise the Lord, one was. After limping across to reception, one of the staff noticed me and went to get a wheelchair then wheeled me up to our room and into it. Another lesson: ask for wheelchairs at every opportunity. I should know that most places will have one available.

We then showered and settled into bed. Room service came. The thought of going down to the food court below the hotel was too much. We then went to sleep and got about five hours shut-eye.  If we hadn’t got a room, I’m not sure what we would have done. We’ve still got another four and a half hours to go before the flight and even that seems long. But, on the bright side, we’ve had a bit of a rest in comfort and we’re a little more fortified for the rest of the journey. I’m just trying to not think of how many hours we have left.

We checked out at about 8pm and Glen wheeled me back over to the airport. He’s really been very helpful and even if we weren’t on this trip, I don’t know what I’d do without him. Showering seems to be the most difficult, but he’s also been my sherpa and carried me up and down the stairs at home. (Next house will have no stairs.)

We went up to the service counter, dropped me off, Glen returned the wheelchair and then another staff member pushed me all around the airport to get to the lounge. We went through security and border control down the air crew line so there was no waiting. If we hadn’t told them about me, this would have been so much harder.

Now we’re in the lounge. Glen’s brought my food. He’s had a shower. And we’re waiting for our driver to take me to the gate for our 14 hour flight to LA. And then to Chicago. And then finally to Toronto. Trying to keep my eye on the prize.

Photos from Tasmania

The Roadkill Capital of the World

One of my least loved things about this trip of Tasmania is the amount of roadkill we’ve seen. The roadsides have been absolutely littered with the struck (and in some cases scavenged) corpses of wallabies, bandicoots, possums and a few rabbits. We noticed it the first day we got here and every morning in particular there have been constant reminders of how close wildlife lives to human habitation here – and how often it’s killed for the misfortune.

Most of the wildlife we’ve seen this trip has been of the dead variety. This is probably because we haven’t been doing much driving at dusk and at night. When we returned from the Kermandie Hotel in Geeveston after dinner, we did see a living animal on the road. It was either a bandicoot or a potaroo. Glen was driving and doing so slowly enough to spot it and give it time to hop off the road. While it survived an encounter with us, I wonder how much longer it would survive if it likes to hang out on roads.

While each drive has been distressing, on Easter Monday I realised I had an opportunity to get some photos that may come in handy for work. So, after spotting a dead wallaby, I pulled over and got out to take photos. Glen anxiously stood on the side of the road, keeping a watch for cars (the drivers here are pretty shit and don’t stay in their lanes…much like most Australian drivers), while I took photos of the deceased. I won’t know if they’re any good until I get home but I’m hoping there’s something useful that can help encourage people to slow down and watch for wildlife on the roads.

I also took the opportunity to pick and eat some wild blackberries that were growing on the side of the road.

Bruny Island

We drove to Kettering and then waited for the ferry to take us across to Bruny Island. The ride took 15 minutes and we arrived in good time, getting onto the island at 11:30am. We drove north to the lookout point, which wasn’t much to look at, and then headed south through the island.

Our first important stop was to get some oysters. Bruny Island is famous for its oysters and I’d been seeing oysters on the menu for days but had abstained from ordering. Today was the day. Glen hates them so I got a plate of six to myself. The disappeared down my gullet pretty quickly. They were tasty. I didn’t get food poisoning. We moved on.

Next was the Bruny Island Cheese Company for a cheese platter and a ploughman’s lunch, sitting outside and playing Exploding Kittens. The cheeses were all very “subtle” (which is to say there was barely any flavour at all). We ate them. They weren’t our favourite but it was a nice spot to stop for lunch.

We then drove to the isthmus, walked up the hill to the lookout point to for 360° views, and then down to the beach in the vain hope of seeing Little Penguins in the rookery. It was the middle of the day; the penguins were out at sea, eating. They’d return at night but we wouldn’t be there to see them.

With plenty of time to spare, we drove to the very southern tip of Bruny Island and checked out the lighthouse and the views. Along the way was more beautiful scenery than you could poke a sharp stick at. Mabel Bay was particularly stunning. It’s a shame the water is a little on the cold side.

Once at the lighthouse we went for a walk along the rocks. I saw a spotted lizard disappear. We left and drove back north. Again there are plenty of walks on Bruny Island, as there are on the mainland, but not much time to do them. This time around.

The Search for White Wallabies

It rained on our drive to Adventure Bay but stopped once we arrived at our accommodation. 43 Degrees is eco-based accommodation. We’re staying at the waterfront units at the southern end of Adventure Bay; there are two others at the northern end.

They’re Nissan hut style buildings, tastefully decorated with a kitchenette, two rooms, bathroom and a living area. There’s a deck outside overlooking the bay (which is where I’m typing this). It’s luxurious without being pretentious and is multiple steps up from where we were staying the night before.

We unloaded the car. I went for a walk down to the beach and put my feet in the clear and chilly water. There were lots of conical shells washing up on the shore. After I got back, the owner of the property arrived and welcomed me and talked to the couple who are staying next door. They asked about the white wallabies that live on the island and where to see them; I benefitted from their enquiries. Once they’d all gone, I grabbed Glen and we drove up the road to one of two locations where we could see these white wallabies.

We saw regular brown wallabies first, which suited me just fine. The couple from next door showed up. They didn’t stay long. With no white wallabies readily available they weren’t willing to wait and heading off to the other location (they saw them in the end). I looked around and saw a white mound in the distance. A white wallaby!

It was down towards another accommodation which said, at the entrance to the driveway, “guests only”. I defied them and walked down the driveway…but didn’t get too close to the wallaby (who was hanging out with a regular one) for fear that someone would come out and tell me to bugger off. I don’t know why I worry so much. I should have just gone closer.

Anyway, I saw it clear enough through my camera lens and then found another near a fence. Meanwhile, truckloads of regular wallabies are bounding by, no doubt wondering why these freaks are getting all the attention. I wondered why there’d be so many white wallabies around, considering it’s a genetic defect, but with few, if any, predators on the island, they’ve probably been breeding quite happily. I wonder if they’re easier to see on the road; they’re quite bright.

We’d stopped at the general store on the way in and discovered there is only one place to eat dinner on the whole island and that’s back the way we’d come. As there were cooking facilities at 43 Degrees, we bought some chicken and vegetables and other supplies and Glen cooked a barbecue. It did nicely.

After dinner I walked down to the jetty where a bunch of people were fishing. The sun was setting. The light was amazing. It was oh so beautiful. The fishers were pulling squid out of the bay, all of which were being scooped up and taken home for cooking. They inked a lot. I felt sorry for them.

We’re now settled in for the night. Wallabies are bounding out the back of the property. The TV is on. It’s getting dark. It’s a perfect night for our final evening in Tasmania.

Hastings Caves and Cockle Creek, Tasmania

Easter Sunday we woke at 8, giving us enough time to have breakfast at the B&B at 8:30. We stuffed ourselves with a cooked breakfast of poached eggs, tomatoes, mushrooms and toast. There was also a selection of stewed fruits (rhubarb, berries, nectarines), which I couldn’t help but have two helpings of.

We ate breakfast while ignoring the other two couples in the room, who also ignored us. Glen absolutely hates having to socialise in these sorts of situations so if it weren’t for the “and Breakfast” bit, I’d probably be strongly discouraged from booking a B&B at all.

After breakfast we packed and then walked down to the creek for another attempt at seeing the local platypus. Again, nothing. This isn’t really surprising considering it was early and if I were a platypus, I’d still be in bed somewhere.

We left Geeveston to continue our adventures south. Having seen part of Mt Hartz the day before we skipped it and travelled to Hastings Caves. Karen, our host at Cambridge House, suggested we take the scenic route around Police Point on our way to the caves and I’m glad we did. It hugged the coast, providing spectacular views of the bay with fields and forests too.

After a while we headed in land. Next time we plan a trip to somewhere that’s got a nature element, I think I’ll just book a big car, a 4WD perhaps, because our drive around southern Tasmania has involved a lot of gravel roads.

Our little hire car has survived them but not without going super slow (a real trial for me who likes to get wherever we’re going asap) or being shaken to bits (I think Glen got quite car sick at one point). We took roads that seem to be frequently travelled but are nevertheless unsealed and arrived at Hastings Caves in time for the 11:15am tour.

Hastings Caves

Being Sunday and Easter there were a lot of people there so they put on three tours at 11:15, spacing them out enough so we didn’t fraternise with the group ahead or behind. Our group of 26/27 descended into the caves, led by our guide. We went down steps and stopped at various convenient locations to look at stalactites, stalagmites, columns and other formations. We also got to touch the insides of one of the columns.

Despite being on holiday, and therefore not required to think of work, I can’t help but do so, particularly when it relates to guided tours and presentations. While we were given some interesting facts, there was nothing to hold them all together and no overarching message that emerged at the end of it.

I wanted to ask, “Why should I care about these caves?” or “What are you trying to tell me that you think I need to know?” I think if there had been something to tie it all together, something with a great hook as well and a message that TasPaWS wanted us to know about the caves, then it would have taken it from a good tour to a great one. I suppose it’s just front of mind for me at work right now that I couldn’t just enjoy what was presented.

The most interesting thing I remember is something we didn’t even see: cave spiders. Our guide told us about them right at the end of the tour, saying the females are 18cm in diameter (males much smaller) and they build horizontal webs to catch insects that fall from the cave ceiling. Wow! What a fact! But because it was at the end and almost a throw-away line, Glen thought it was made up. I wondered why that should be the last piece of information to handover, especially as it’s about the only thing I remember. Anyway, enough about work-related topics.

After the caves we went to check out the hot springs, where you can swim in a 28°C heated outdoor pool that is filled from the hot springs in the area. It looks like a regular garden swimming pool so it wasn’t really something we felt we had to do. We didn’t swim, instead heading off on the walk to find the source of the pool and to look for platypus. Unfortunately, we didn’t see any platypus but the walk was nice and we got to dip our hands into slightly cooler-than-luke-warm water. After our walk, we got back in the car and headed south to the Ida Bay Railway Cafe for lunch.

Cockle Creek

Replenished we drove on more unsealed roads to get to Cockle Creek, which has the honour of being the southernmost point in Australia that you can drive to. It rained as we arrived but only sparingly so we walked to a point to see the whale sculpture and then to Cockle Creek itself.

A streak of turquoise ran through the middle of the creek, so blue you think you were looking at a tiled surface beneath the water. We took out time taking photos of rocks, the water, the bridge, the bay, mussels on rocks and birds also on rocks. It’s a beautiful spot and well worth the bumpy drive.

From here you can set off on any number of hikes, one of which lasts seven days. Perhaps one day we’ll attempt the four hour one as it would be something to see the untouched wilderness of the southern forests.

We drove back the way we came, heading for our accommodation in Dover. It wasn’t as nice as Cambridge House in Geeveston, and considering Geeveston wasn’t all that far down the road (a poor bit of planning on my part), it would have been better to spend a second night there. Nevertheless, it was comfortable, had heating and was reasonably priced.

We ate at one of two restaurants, the Post Office (the other being the RSL club), and had pizza for dinner. Then it was back to the accommodation to watch Doc Martin and then the second half of My Big Fat Greek Wedding. It was relaxing and quite holiday-like.

Hobart at Easter

Glen and I took advantage of a family wedding in Sydney to plan a getaway to Tasmania for the Easter break. Despite Glen’s sister, Miranda, having lived in Hobart for a few years, we never made it down to Van Diemen’s Land. Now she lives in Sydney.

Sydney to Hobart

After yum cha with family, we flew on Good Friday to Hobart. The flight was short (only 2 hours) and we landed in Hobart’s dinky airport. Despite its size, it’s classed as an international airport – yet we can’t get to Perth directly.

I’d hired us a car from a company called Sixt, which, because of the cheap rate, was not at the airport. I left Glen to collect our one piece of luggage while I went in search of the shuttle bus. I called the company to find out where they were but as I chatted to the operator, I saw the bus and was whisked away from the airport to the rental.

The process for collecting the car was slow. There was only one guy on duty, which was fine, but it took a while to process the booking for the couple before me. Then the internet connection stopped working so it took even longer to get that sorted.

When it was finally my turn, there was a lot of manual entering, which seemed strange considering the booking had all been done online and confirmed. I was then told the price would be $973 for a five-day rental. Luckily I had the confirmation sheet with me and could show that it was, in fact, not this ridiculous sum but a much more reasonable $243. More data entry and I was then given a car. It has very little power, is manual (I just assumed it would be automatic – lucky I have a manual licence) and has little suspension.

I zoomed back to the airport, collected Glen and we drove into Hobart. We checked into the hotel – Fountainside – then went for a walk around the harbour. Not much was open, what with it being Good Friday, but it was a pleasant walk.

We looked at the old buildings of the Salamanca area, wandered around Princes Walk, through quaint streets that at one time reminded us of Halifax, then St John, then country England. All the while, we were looking for a place for dinner, and we settled on Monty’s of Montpellier.

Despite the outside appearance, the restaurant is tastefully decorated and comes with all the fanciness you’d expect from any other city with good fine dining available. I had salmon and mussels for entree, while Glen had asparagus. For mains, I had gold band snapper and Glen, the beef. We also wine and then dessert. It was all really good food, interesting combinations and all up a pleasant experience.

Hobart to Geeveston

Saturday morning saw us walk down to the Salamanca Market, which got busier the longer we were there. Most of the items on option were craft or clothes with some food stalls in between, though I didn’t quite fancy curry or kim chi at 9am. We strolled along each aisle, buying Danish pancakes and cotton/bamboo socks. We resisted buying knick-knacks, such as decorative wooden pears or glass mushrooms.

As I had planned a fairly laden schedule for our Tasmania trip, I was glad we were able to get through the markets earlier than expected and get on the road. We headed out to MONA (Museum of Old and New Art), which is such a drawcard for Hobart. The museum is built down so you start at “ground floor” and then descend to “B3”. There you are given an “O” (an iPhone device with gallery and artwork interpretation on it) and a set of headphones.

There are no panels next to the artwork so the device is how you find out about it, offering the bare facts (who made it, what’s it made of, where it came from and what’s it called) to more in depth interpretation, questions to prompt discussion, and also insights from the collector/curator.

While at first I struggled to want to use the O, I found not having interpretation there in front of me very freeing. Where there’s a sign, your eye is drawn to it, away from the artwork. By not having these panels, you’re given the freedom to look at what’s in front of you, the thing you’re actually here to see. A robotic voice can then read out the text to you from the O so you don’t “miss” the information but otherwise it’s quite relaxed in how you experience it all.

My favourite piece in the whole gallery was the White Library. This was a room lined with shelves and with a couple of tables and chairs, arranged to look like a library. The shelves are then stacked with books of varying sizes and thickness and there’ll all white. There’s no writing whatsoever. I can’t remember what the interpretation said exactly but it was about how if no one reads the books in the library (or any books or any thing), then they may as well be filled with blank paper. /mindblown. I got such a thrill from having “got” the piece.

Other favourites included the “Fat Car” (a stylised Porsche that has been made fat) and “Kryptos” (though more because of the collector’s down-to-earth attitude about the artist’s commissioned work that if it were crap, he could just close up the door and no one would know it was there). We finished exploring the galleries and ended with lunch at the cafe, looking out over the bay and watching a brush turkey with its chick.

Scores more people arrived as we left so we were glad to have gotten there so early. I then drove us south for about two hours, heading into Geeveston then to the Tahune AirWalk. We drove through a “working forest”, something that the signage was very clear about. The Tahune AirWalk is a suspended structure that takes you into the treetops. We have something similar in Walpole, Western Australia, though I think this one is bigger, and there’s also a pretty epic cantilever looking over the river.

Glen was white-knuckled through most of our time in the air, while I was calm and enjoying the height. He couldn’t understand why, considering how terrified I was doing the Sydney Harbour Bridge Climb and that came with safety harnesses. Perhaps I’ve become less afraid in the past 11 years. Throwing my gold coin donation off the edge, however, did make me go weak at the knees, as if I was throwing a piece of myself over the edge.

After the airwalk we took the track to the two suspension bridges. I LOVE suspension bridges. Glen DOES NOT love suspension bridges. I’m afraid I couldn’t help but jump up and down, causing Glen to get very annoyed, but he survived, as did I. The walk on terra firma was lovely and we saw lots of different types of fungi, reminding me of the time we were in La Mauricie National Park in Quebec and there was fungi everywhere. (More photos of the airwalk when I get back to Perth; forgot to bring the cable.)

We finished the walk quicker than the recommended walking time, jumped back in the car and headed out of the forest to our accommodation at Geeveston. We’re staying at Cambridge House B&B, a beautifully restored heritage building built in 1870. There’s a creek next to the property which is home to platypus. We’ve been told they’re out and about any time of the day (unusual for platypus) but we haven’t seen them yet. There’s still time!

Blue skies for blacks, reds and greens

On Saturday we woke up thinking we might not going skiing until later in the day – if at all – but one look outside at the clear blue sky with no cloud in sight and we were out of the house by 9am and waiting for the shuttle bus. Glen and I headed across to Hanazono, a side of the mountain we hadn’t yet explored. Behind us sat a family from Perth whose kid made us laugh because he thought they were going to ski back to Australia. Adorable!

Hanazono doesn’t have a lot of runs on it but there’s a long green (about 3.3km) and a red (about 1.8km) which looked good. There hadn’t been much – if any – snow overnight so the slopes were icier than we’d experienced on the other days. It felt just like being back in Ontario.

We caught the lift up and then both took the green down. This green was insane. It had a couple of incredibly steep sections followed by long stretches that were practically flat. I found the steep bits thrilling (if a little intimidating first time around) but Glen wasn’t so keen. When we reached the bottom, he stayed while I got back on the lift and went to do the red.

Now this really was fun. Steep, wide and long, I couldn’t wait to do it again once I reached the bottom. As Glen was nowhere to be seen (he’d gone back to do the green and felt much better about it second time round), I jumped back on the lift and did the red again. Technique wasn’t too bad though, as I said about yesterday, next time I’ll definitely have a lesson or two to iron out the kinks.

Glen and I met at the bottom, our ski runs coinciding perfectly, and then went back up the lift before catching another to get us further up the mountain. We were attempting to make our way to the next side of the mountain and had to go up to get across. Glen was anxious as there were a lot of reds but only one green and if we missed the turn then we’d be committed to a red. Of course, we missed the turn.

Our first black

We were the committed to a red (Jumbo, 34°/17°/1200m) which was fine until it turned into a short, steep black. We both paused at the top of this. I said we could do it, Glen wasn’t so sure, but I was keen to give it a whirl. It took a lot of effort but it was so much fun. For me at least. Once Glen got to the bottom, he wanted a rest so we pulled into King Bell Hut at the bottom of this black and took some time out to consider our next move.

Glen was keen to get to the side we’d been at the day before, with the Niseko Gondola and some runs of reds and greens. To get there we took a lift up, then skied across the base of the peak. I then decided that now was the time to do one of the ungroomed black runs at the top of mountain. Glen wouldn’t go near it so waited at the bottom for me.

The run was called Large (32°/19°/650m) and it was by no means the steepest on the mountain. It also wasn’t the highest point (lots of people were walking up to the peak and going out of the resort boundaries…maybe next time). However, catching the lift up was a terrifying experience as I got higher and higher and wondered if I’d really made the right decision. At the top I seriously doubted it but there was only one way down.

I took the run slowly, traversing across the mountain a lot more than I would have liked. Ideally I would have liked to have pointed my skis down the hill and ever so coolly and with much awesomeness, skied down the slope with control and no fear whatsoever.

While it wasn’t with as much grace as I would have liked, I did manage to get down the majority of the slope without falling, only taking a slight tumble when I was about ten metres from Glen. I didn’t lose my skis and it was more like I had decided it was time to sit down. My legs were extremely tired by the end of it, but I was proud of myself for giving it a go. However, I didn’t have any burning desire to repeat it so Glen and I skied across the slopes (avoiding the annoying bit where you have to walk between the two sides of the mountain) and then attempted the reds and greens again.

Having just done the black run, the reds were that much harder today. My legs ached, I did have all my weight on the downhill ski and I was putting all my energy into making sure I didn’t fall over (which I didn’t). At the bottom of the hill, we skied into the Hilton and met Bec at Ezo Pub where we had another bit of food and rested up.

A rest and then a red run

All three of us took the gondola up to the top. The sky was still clear so we got some excellent views over the mountain and the volcano in the distance. We really couldn’t have asked for better weather.

Before we got to the top of the mountain, Glen and I thought the greens weren’t so bad up there but once we were there, we realised that they weren’t as easy as we remembered. Glen skied with Bec while they took it slow, while I zoomed off to do an almost non-stop run of the reds from the top to the bottom.

My legs were jelly by the end of it and I think the only way I made it down without injury was to order myself to put all my weight on the downhill ski. Even then, it wasn’t as much as it should have been. I made it to the bottom, however, caught a short lift up, did the red run, then had a toilet break before catching the gondola back up to find Glen and Bec.

Bec had managed the first green run but the rest really were a lot harder than we’d expected. Luckily the snow patrol saw her slow descent and stop and came to her rescue. Glen continued on. I took the green runs this time, hoping to catch up to them. The green runs were actually quite hard at this time of day because the snow had been wiped out, leaving behind ice, my legs were shot and the runs were narrow and curved. I was freaking out that I was going to off the edge! I eventually caught Glen at one of the junctions and we skied Banzai together to the Hilton.

Onsen!

We then went to the onsen in the hotel as the view of the mountains was a highlight, as was the koi pond. This one was nicer than the one at the Prince. It was also quieter. The inside onsen felt hotter than 42°C, while the outside one felt cooler than 42°C. It was nice to sit in the outside one and look at the mountains, taking it easy and feeling our muscles relax. We were probably in there about twenty or thirty minutes, then showered and got dressed. As we’d come from off the ski slopes, the worst part was having to put our ski boots back on.

Glen and I sat at the lobby bar and had a drink and slice of cake while waiting for Bec to come out of the onsen. We then waited outside for the bus to take us back to Hirafu. Once back in town, we split up so Bec could return her stuff next to the Vale and collect her shoes, while Glen and I went to the other ski shop nearer the bus stop, returned our skis and went grocery shopping.

We didn’t stop for long at the apartment, changing our ski boots for comfy walking boots and then heading out to get crispy bread from the bread and fondue place. We met Bec along the way, bought some stuff, then decided that instead of leftover soup (for which we’d bought the bread), we’d go to the sushi and tempura place on the corner.

Bec and Glen ordered tempura sets while I had a sashimi set. All of them came with a wide variety of things included miso soup, rice, veggies, tempura and sashimi for both of us, a custard thing and a slice of orange. I wasn’t so keen on the raw squid so left them but all the other sashimi was nice.

After dinner, it was back to the apartment to prepare for tomorrow’s departure. It’s been great to be here, especially ending on such a beautiful weather day (Sunday it’s meant to rain). Perhaps a fourth day would have been nice, then we wouldn’t have felt the compulsion to go out every day to ski or to go out for so long and then we could have gone night skiing, but I don’t feel like we’ve been especially rushed. It’s been a great skiing holiday.