Need a Hand with that Flat Tyre?

I’d wanted to check out Coral Bay while we were up in Exmouth but there wasn’t enough time to do it without getting stressed and being rushed. Instead, I’ve filed it away as something to do on the next trip up here. So, in exchange, we slept in and decided to take it easy, eventually choosing to go for a snorkel at Lakeside.

We packed up the cabin, put everything in the car, and then I went to the campers next door and asked if they wanted our leftover food (carrots, weetbix, garlic etc). The guy gratefully accepted it and then said, ‘Do you need a hand with that flat tyre?’

Excuse me? What? Flat what?

I popped me head out and looked at the car. Sure enough, the back right wheel was completely flat.

Oh.

The guy was happy to lend a hand. In fact, he changed the whole thing and saved us having to get our hands too dirty. Thank god we didn’t have our hearts set on going to Coral Bay early or else we would have been in a flap. He changed the tyre as if he’d been doing such a thing for years, said thanks again for the food, and we were on our way.

We drove around to Cape Range National Park again and then to Lakeside to go drift snorkelling. Glen stayed on the beach as he was extremely worried about jellyfish. Meanwhile I went in with nothing but speedos and flippers.

It was fun to drift on the current while looking at the fish. The water was warm. The experience pleasant. Although when I drifted down the current picked up a bit and made it harder to go back into shore. Luckily it wasn’t that deep and I could simply stand and walk back in. Snorkel and swim complete, we returned to the car and to town.

We stopped for lunch in Exmouth, where I ordered something revolted that I couldn’t finish. We filled up the tank and headed for the airport. Two emus sat beside a floodway sign so we stopped and looked at them. Strangely, an empty 4WD was parked near them, its occupants nowhere to be seen. Glen surmised that they had probably stopped to take photos of the emus and had subsequently been eaten by them. Sounds plausible enough.

Got to the airport, discovering that I was missing one beach towel. Very annoying as it was one of our favourites from Canada. I hope someone finds it and makes use of it. I then dropped off the keys…in the wrong rental car hire box. I’m sure they’ll get it in the end.

Short flight home, landing in much colder weather than we’d experienced in Exmouth. Time to rug up. And the cat looks like she wants cuddles too.

Whale Sharks of Exmouth

The bus picked us up at 7:20am and took us, along with 16 other excited passengers, to the jetty where we’d board the boat for our day of swimming with whale sharks. Despite having heard positive reports about a currently good run of sightings, I was a little worried we’d spend a day on the boat without much to show for it.

While we waited for the inflatable to take us to the boat, a sea turtle intermittently popped its head out of the water in the bay next to us. Kind of like an aquatic version of whack-a-mole. If nothing else, we’d seen a turtle’s head.

Once on the boat, we were given a safety briefing and provided with full body stingy suits, attractive things that make you look like a human condom. They also smelled of human sweat so it was a relief to get moving so the breeze could blow the smell away.

We went for a snorkel in the bay first, drifting down a ways as we floated above coral and a bunch of fish. I saw many of the same species I’d seen the day before including a large starfish and a cat fish. The water was warm and it was a nice way to, well, get our feet wet.

Back on the boat we were soon zooming out to see as a whale shark had been spotted nearby. The captain was happy we wouldn’t have to travel for 45 minutes to reach it, as they’d had to do the day before. Glen and I were in group two, each group consisting of nine people plus a spotter.

Group one hopped in and we got ready, slipping on snorkel and mask and flippers. Once we received the go ahead we jumped in and lined up with the spotter, waiting for the shark to come in line with us and then it was on for young and old as we swam hard to try to keep up.

The shark we saw was a juvenile male, about 4-5 metres long. He was so beautiful. The spots on his side are so well defined and the strange shape of its head and mouth is captivating. I swam as fast as I could, which admittedly isn’t very fast, but this shark, with a few flicks of its powerful tail, steamed ahead and left me behind. Others were much better at keeping up.

We had seen a whale shark. Mission accomplished!

Poor Glen didn’t have such a good time of it though. He often gets seasick so to be on a boat and then to have to snorkel through choppy seas made him feel decidedly green. Up came his breakfast and after two dives with the shark, he decided to call it quits and have a lie-down.

The rest of us went in and out of the water with this juvenile male over the next hour or so before he finally had enough and disappeared. We then saw a much younger and smaller whale shark who was double the adorable level and was quite happy to hang around and have a look at us for a while.

Even though we didn’t see one of the giant ones, I’m really glad we saw what we did. I couldn’t get over how beautiful they look.

After the swims we had lunch on board and then were taken to a part of the reef for a snorkel. That is until they spotted a tiger shark near the boat. It didn’t come to the surface but based on how big it looked from above, it was likely to be a bit of a monster. After that sighting, the skipper wasn’t keen for us to go snorkelling so instead we drifted along spotting more sharks.

Apparently we saw different types but one tiger shark was enough for me.

We got back to land at about four, Glen very happy to no longer be swaying left and right. Despite the seasickness, I think we can claim that trip as a success.

I’d like to come back and see the humpback whales and the manta rays but I think Glen will abstain from them. Anyone else want to join me?

Mini-break in Exmouth

This weekend we’re continuing our exploration of Australia by heading up to Exmouth to swim with whale sharks (much to Glen’s horror). We saw so much of Canada that it seemed ridiculous to not see more of Australia.

We left drizzly and grey Perth at 11am, boarding an almost full flight up to Learmonth. We landed an hour and a half later, flying up the coast and seeing the pointy bit you see on the map. I think it’s Shark Bay, but don’t quote me.

After collecting our luggage and picking up the hire car, we drove into Exmouth and had a late lunch. Based on a recommendation we then drove around the tip to Cape Range National Park to reach Oyster Stacks.

High tide was at 4:20 and we got there about 3:30. It was windy and the water looked choppy. I was anxious about getting in the water, made worse by the signs warning of dangerous jellyfish. But FOMO won out in the end and I got in the warm water with my snorkel and mask.

Fish everywhere! Thousands of very small, silvery fish in a massive swarm coalesced around me. Large fish in a variety of colours, iridescent fish, tiny bright blue fish, yellow fish, zebra fish, a fish with a long snout that swam close to the surface, starfish, sea cucumbers and coral…all amazing.

I chose not to swim out to the actual oyster stacks (columns of rocks with oysters on them) purely out of fear of getting stuck out there and not being able to get back. Nevertheless, I saw a lot, and really happy about it.

Glen stayed on the beach, taking photos of sea snails and crabs in the rocks.

The sun was getting low in the sky on the drive back, casting a golden glow across the landscape. We soon saw an emu and later a kangaroo nearly jumped into the side of the car. We stopped and took photos of Sturt’s Desert Pea on the verge, then went up to the lighthouse. People were gathering with their chairs and bottles of beer to watch the approaching sunset.

Back in Exmouth we bought food at IGA, then checked into our accommodation, a caravan/camping/chalet place like the ones I used to stay at with my family in Albany. We cooked snapper with carrots, broccoli and sugar snap peas, and watched tv. It’s like being on holiday.

Karijini National Park, Western Australia

Glen and I went to Karajini National Park in Western Australia’s North-West for Easter this year. Two of our friends came along too and we made a bit of a long weekend of it. Karajini had been on our list for a long time, but it’s not the easiest place to get to. We flew from Perth to Paraburdoo and then drove two hours to reach the national park. Despite the distance involved, it was well worth it. Karajini lived up to all my expectations.

We ‘glamped’ at the Eco Retreat, each couple taking over a ‘tent’ with its own ensuite – hot water and a flushing toilet in the middle of nowhere? Hell yeah! Who cares about the cost? Highlights from the accommodation included nights looking up at the Milky Way, the ability to have a prepared meal, and scores of frogs inhabiting the ensuite. It wasn’t until the day we left that we were told that Stimson Pythons like to live underneath the toilet rim and feed on the frogs. Apparently the snakes are buggers to get out. I’m glad we only heard about this as we were leaving.

Gorgeous Gorges

We divided our days across different gorges, ticking off most of the accessible tourist gorges. (There are plenty of other off-road places but you need to either know about them or go with experienced guides. Maybe next time.)

On our first day we went to Oxer Lookout (very easy) and then hiked down Weano Gorge. Glen rolled his ankle before we’d gone five minutes down the gorge but he soldiered on. This gorge was narrow, filled with undergrowth, and led to a small pool, which, for some reason, I took forever to make the decision to get in. FOMO pushed me over the edge and I got in. Our first gorge, our first swim in a pool. Was magical.

On our second day we hiked down Kalamina Gorge. This one was stunning, a wide gorge with water trickling down over layered rocks, and at the end we went swimming in Rock Arch Pool, frightened of spiders and trying to find warm patches. Beautiful to say the least.

On day three we want down Dales Gorge and checked out Fern Pool, Fortescue Falls and Circular Pool. Amazing places (even if Glen described Fern Pool as ‘an ordinary pool’). Highlights were the waterfalls at each location, including the ‘warm’ one at Circular Pool (this pool is so cold that anything else feels warm), and the fruit bats and Olive Python at Fern Pool.

On day four, our last day, we attempted part of Joffre Lookout (and then I chickened out at seeing the sheer cliff face we had to climb down) and then left the Eco Retreat and drove a long way to Hammersley Gorge. Again, another beautiful gorge. We were worried we’d been rained out as the skies opened on the drive but it was intermittent and we enjoyed swimming along the 400-metres of this gorge, in between sheer rock faces. Unfortunately Spa Pool was out of bounds but we got to enjoy its warm waters trickling down.

Karajini is definitely way up there for special experiences.

The Great Ocean Road, Victoria

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After attending our friends’ wedding in Geelong, we took the opportunity to head along the Great Ocean Road and see the 12 Apostles. It’s one of those things that we probably wouldn’t have done if that hadn’t been a reason to be out of Melbourne so we took it.

We left Geelong on Saturday morning, warned that part of the Great Ocean Road was closed due to landslides. However, we’d been given directions on how to get around the dangerous bit so were not too phased about missing out on a stretch of it.

It rained most of the day so it was with some ambivalence that we left our apartment and headed south, already rearranging our upcoming plans. The original idea was that we’d drive south, stop along the way, go for some walks in the forests, check out the beaches, and then end up in Apollo Bay where we’d spend the night.

The next day we’d drive to the 12 Apostles, which is about an hour and a half from Apollo Bay, then head back up to Melbourne for our flight at 5:30pm. Not having done this journey before and expecting we’d do more than we actually would, we soon realised that the amount of time we’d set aside was too generous. This is also because we didn’t keep in mind the ‘Dan and Glen Factor’.

What is the ‘Dan and Glen Factor’?

The ‘Dan and Glen Factor’ is two-fold. The first is that if there’s something we’re really keen on seeing that everyone else has seen, then it is likely we won’t see it, either at all or in its entirety.

This has occurred on multiple occasions, specifically when seeing Antelope Canyon, Grand Canyon, Northern Lights and moose. While others are almost assured seeing these things, when it comes to us, some sort of caveat kicks in so we miss out on it.

The second part of the ‘Dan and Glen Factor’ is the speed in which we see things.

‘Oh, you need two hours to see that.’

Really? We’ll be done in 15 minutes.

‘You should really take three days there.’

Thanks for the suggestion but we’ll have finished after a day and a half.

So when we think we’re going to take a whole day to travel a couple of hundred kilometres and go exploring, we should really know that, when combined with a hell of a lot of rain and wind, we’re going to be done by lunchtime.

Zooming down the Great Ocean Road

We got out of Geelong, zoomed through Torquay, attempted to see a lighthouse but the rain got worse, then headed onto Lorne where we chucked a right and went inland, away from the road.

The Great Ocean Road wasn’t as pretty as I imagined it would be. It’s certainly atmospheric when there’s a storm ranging but at least on the stretch we saw, there wasn’t really much that truly grabbed me.

What did strike me as we continued our journey from coast and then inland was the variability of the landscapes. That really impressed me. We went from rocky coastal forest into stringy bark forest where all the bark was peeling off. That amazed me. It was so beautiful. We also went through farmland and then ferny forests shrouded in fog. I loved it.

And, one of the real highlights, was stopping on the side of the road to look at a koala and her joey in the tree above. That’s right. We saw a WILD koala with a JOEY. I couldn’t believe it. How lucky were we?! She seemed unfazed by the crowd below taking their photos and the joey was very big.

We continued on to Apollo Bay, having taken the detour inland, and got to one of their Chinese restaurants were we had a big lunch. We’d booked accommodation in the town but as it was only lunch time and we didn’t really see the need to hang around, we headed for the 12 Apostles.

The 12 Apostles

An hour and a half after leaving Apollo Bay, we reached the 12 Apostles visitor centre with a million other people. We got out of the car, and were thankful that by now, at least for a little while, the rain had stopped and the skies cleared.

We had a bracing walk to each of the lookouts, navigating around clumps of people who were stopping to take their selfies with some of the Apostles in the background. There aren’t 12 anymore as a few of them have been excommunicated.

You can actually see how the erosion is taking place, with the water eating into one edge of it and the strength of the wind blowing away the upper layers. It’s an impressive sight and a great place for a biology lesson (though I was surprised at how little interpretation there was. One sign and even that was small and uninteresting).

We went from the lookouts at the top to the sea level, seeing a washed up blue-bottle jellyfish and watching the clouds roll in again. We piled back into the car and the rain came down heavier. We bypassed seeing the other natural rock formations along the way, and instead took the road back up to Melbourne.

Impromptu Melbourne Visit

One of the reasons for returning to Melbourne on Saturday night was so we could go to Ikea the next morning to buy a sink. We’re getting the kitchen renovated next week. We had to pay for all the stuff on Friday/Saturday but when they rang on Friday it was to say that they didn’t have the sink we wanted and they didn’t know when it would come in. What would we like to do?

We didn’t want a different sink but WA operates separately from the eastern states so even though there was one in Richmond, Victoria, they couldn’t get it shipped across the country. So we decided we’d get it ourselves.

We possibly could have squeezed it all in on Sunday – seeing the 12 Apostles, returning to Melbourne, buying the sink at Ikea and then catching the plane – but we felt it would be too much of a rush and having seen what we came to see, we could spend a night in Melbourne and see some friends.

Glen drove us back to the city (I’d done all the other billion hours of driving) while I searched for accommodation for one night. There were only three rooms left in the whole of the Melbourne CBD. I’m not joking. Something to do with some bloody horse race.

We ended up staying at Pegasus Apartment Hotel, which was nice and did for what we needed, but we couldn’t believe how limited the choice was. We got into Melbourne in the evening, then went out for dinner with Julian, Deanne and Albert, before we caught up with Simon and Shih-Ern and a few us went dancing after.

All in all a packed but fun day (oh my god, we saw two koalas!), and going to bed never felt so good.

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!

Brisbane in a whirlwind

Glen and I flew to Brisbane on Friday afternoon for an extended weekend visit. He had enrolled in a conference so it was a good excuse to check out this part of the country. It had been more than ten years since I’d been to Queensland, and most of that was spent in the Gold Coast with only a brief visit to Brisbane.

We arrived around midnight and collected the hire car. The rather embarrassing part of that experience was being unable to find the hand brake. There wasn’t one and no matter how much we searched between the sides, beside the seats or around the dash, there was nothing that looked like it might release the brake and make the little red light disappear. Glen had to go ask where it was.

It was a foot brake. We had a good laugh about that.

I drove us through the impressive tunnel out of the airport towards our accommodation. We took a bit of a gamble after the signal for Google Maps disappeared (being so far under the ground) but luckily came out at the right exit and pulled into our accommodation.

We’d booked an AirBnB place for Friday and Saturday nights which was close to the hospital where Glen’s conference was. It was a spacious place and had everything we needed, except that the air conditioning was only in the living room and not the bedrooms. Eventually the air filtered down the hallway to us and Glen found a pedestal fan in one of the cupboards so Brisbane’s humidity didn’t stop us from sleeping.

Saturday

On Saturday morning we went for breakfast at The Nest, down the road from where we were staying, before I dropped Glen at the hospital. My friend Chris then came and picked me up, whisking me away on a personalised tour of Brisbane and its surrounds.

We went for a coffee in Milton at La Dolce Vita, a kitsch cafe that has Roman statues out the front and a replica of the Eiffel Tower on the roof. We didn’t so much as have coffee as have Nutella-based drinks (a Nutella Chai for Chris and a Nutella milkshake for me). We whiled away about an hour or more catching up on everything. We hadn’t seen each other for over two years so it was wonderful to get this time to get into it all.

From there we went to Mt Coot-Tha and the botanic gardens. Chris was really keen for me to see the tropical dome, which, as the name suggests, is a dome-shaped greenhouse that is even more humid than the already humid temperature outside. Palms and ferns, lily pads and lizards abounded, providing a home for plants that are true tropical (as opposed to sub-tropical).

We also checked out the fernery and the bonsais, then walked through the children’s forest, seeing more lizards and giant beetles. A brush turkey also crossed our path.

From the botanical gardens, we then went to d’aquila National Park, albeit only a small part of it at Mt Glorious. The national park covers a large area and it took a while to drive through it to where Chris wanted us to see. We drove along windy roads, sadly seeing evidence of the danger of travelling through this area. As we reached one part, an ambulance drove away and police officers were directing traffic. On the side of the road people were crying and hugging each other, while others looked over the drop. We don’t know the outcome but it looked like it wouldn’t be a good one.

When we reached Mt Glorious, Chris parked the car and we went for a walk through the rainforest. The temperature dropped in the forest, which made the walk much easier. As we headed down one path, a wallaby bounded across the track in front of us and stopped in the scrub on our left. On the right, we spotted a second wallaby that thumped the ground with its foot every now and then to alert others to our presence. I was stoked to see one wallaby, let alone two. We saw another couple as we continued our walk. They weren’t the only wildlife we saw, however.

We heard more birds than we saw, but we were thrilled to see a few fantails flying around, their tails spread out like…well…fans, obviously. And another treat was seeing a large black skin. I started a bit when I saw the scaly skin but fear soon gave way to fascination as we watched it slip and slide down the hill.

The trees were amazing as well, so tall and straight, and plenty with vines or stag horns growing on them. It was unusual to see them growing wild as my experience of them is often of them stuck to a board and strung up on a tree. Often dead or dying.

We got to a lookout over some falls (though the water was rushing much) and then took the track back up the hill. It was much harder going up than going down.

After we got back to the car, Chris drove us to his place so I could check out his pad and then we went for a late lunch at South Bank, settling on a Mexican place before getting some ice-cream made with nitroglycerin??? from Nitrogenie. South Bank is an impressive area. Sure, it’s where all the tourists go but that’s because there’s stuff going on. Plenty of restaurants, a market, free and open swimming pools with fake beach (and hot shirtless men), as well as museums and art galleries.

We then went back to the apartment to meet up with Glen and Jimmy. We chilled out for a while and then went back to Southbank, meeting Dean, and having dinner at a Japanese restaurant called Ginga (which we later learned is part of a chain). Lots of food and talking, then a short walk and some ice-cream (again) before heading home. It was a full-on day and I was more than ready for bed at 11pm.

Sunday

Sunday morning, Glen, Chris and I went for breakfast at Harvey’s Bar and Bistro, enjoying the balmy air and the feeling of actually being on holiday. Breakfast was well proportioned and tasty (I had poached eggs with grilled halloumi, of which Glen took half, and the boys had potato rosti).

Glen wanted to check out an exhibition that was displaying at Queensland Art Gallery so we went back to Southbank to check it out. We went to the wrong gallery to start with but luckily they’re close together so it didn’t take long to find the right one.

We took a quick trip around the exhibition (it was small to begin with) and then, because it had been over an hour since we’d last eaten, we had coffee and dessert at the cafe. One of the cool things we saw was an area setup for drawing based on the patterns that appeared in a painting.

What you do is you pick one of four pieces of paper which has an outline on it of a woman, a tree, a parrot or a man. The outline is transparent so you place the paper on the table which has patterns on it. You then draw in the patterns on your outline. You’d think it’d be overrun with kids but every person using it when we were there was an adult. Apparently it’s usually only adults on it and they stay there for a while. It was really nifty. We stayed to complete our art and then we decided it was time to go.

We said our goodbyes to Chris and headed south to Currumbin Valley to see Jay and Jenni and their two kids, Jediah and Jordella. They’ve got a beautiful block of land that looks out across lush green forest, and a recently installed infinity pool and spa. The view is spectacular and the area is so relaxing and beautiful. I think we were there about 15 minutes before we were in the spa.

Drinks, fresh prawns, chatting and swimming – what a way to spend an afternoon and evening. The thunder and lightning rolled along after a while, and then a bit of rain, but it was just heavenly. So relaxing. We ate a delicious roast chicken dinner and then, because we could, we got back into the spa and pool.

Monday

Waking up was a bit of a struggle but we managed to sleep in a while, getting up in time to see the kids off to school and Jay off to work. Glen and I were totally non-committal with our plans for the day but we reassured Jenni we could look after ourselves and so she was free to go surfing nearby. We lounged around for a while. I had another swim. Then, as we were deciding what to do, Sandi got in touch. We didn’t realise she was in Brisbane but she was free for a couple of hours so we packed up the car and drove back to Brisbane to see her and her son, Frankie, for late yum cha.

More chats over good food, catching up on two years (or more) of what’s been going on in our lives. We talked about kids as well as it’s still very much front of mind for Glen and I and whether we’re going to try for them or not.

Sandi had to go pick up her other son from school so we said goodbye and went for a wander around the shopping centre. Glen had a shave and a haircut while I bought shoes. By the time Glen was finished it was time to go to the airport and drop off the car.

We got there with plenty of time to spare, returned the car, went through security and waited at the gate. Our Brisbane mini-adventure had come to an end. I think we’ll definitely come back, especially as we seem to know more people than we expected in the city. I’d also like to get up to the Great Barrier Reef before much longer, and the Daintree too. Not sure when we’re going to find the time…

We arrived back in Perth at about 9pm. The five-hour flight home was comfortable as there was a spare seat between Glen and I so we could spread out a bit more. David, who’d been house and cat sitting for us, was there to pick us up, which was a relief as we didn’t have to pay for a taxi (which from the Virgin Domestic Terminal is a bit more expensive). Back to work tomorrow.