Kyoto (and Nara) – Part Two

We took Sunday at a slightly slower pace. We’d only booked to stay two nights in the AirBnB before relocating to Hotel Mume closer to Gion. When I’d booked it all I wasn’t sure how we’d go sleeping on the floor so opted for something that was more familiar for the second half of our stay.

We woke up at 7, lounged, got up and made breakfast. Had a shower. Packed. Then I proofread Glen’s research paper, thinking I had oodles of time but Glen hadn’t changed the time on his laptop so it was a bit of a rush towards the end. Our host arrived at 9:30 and her husband gave us a lift to our other hotel.

We checked into Hotel Mume with its big red door. It’s close to/in the Gion district and is warm and comfortable. We couldn’t get into our room as it was still only 10am but we checked in, had a tea and some biscuits and then got some recommendations from the lady at the desk.

We decided to go to Nishiki Markets again, buying prawns on a stick and ambling along through the crowds. And then we bumped into Ravinder!

She was meant to be at Imperial Palace but decided against it and was going wandering so she came with us. I bought some different flavoured coated peanuts. We settled on lunch at a curry ramen place that was tucked out of the way. Usual issues over food but I said I was absolutely fine with the choice and would have the chicken, which was fine. It was wonderful to sit down.

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Red gate

The start of spring

The 3 February was the start of spring which is celebrating with a lantern festival, one of which was happening out at Nara, which was the first capital of Japan. After lunch we took the slow JR train to Nara where we got some info at the tourist centre about sites to see and the lantern festival, then walked through part of the city, stopping for a hot chocolate, before seeing the five-storey pagoda and then deer.

Lots of deer.

Deer you could feed.

There were only a few at the first park we were at but as we got close to the temple housing a giant buddha, they were at plague proportions, commensurate with the number of tourists feeding them biscuits. We joined in and the deers got aggressive. They were biting my jacket! And those teeth looked sharp.

But it was nice to see wildlife, even if it’s become totally habituated and they probably have to put a few down…

Lots of baby deer though.

We went through to see the giant buddha in the giant building. Wandered around. By that stage (how long had it been? Two days?) I was over temples. Afterwards we stopped for crepes and tea/coffee and a rest until it got dark.

We wandered along the lantern-lit path to the temple where the festivities were taking place. When we reached it, the crowd thickened. We joined a queue. The lanterns weren’t as impressive as we thought they’d be, and after meandering along in the throng for a while, we jumped out of the queue and left. I do not regret this decision in the slightest.

A 2.5km walk back to the train station and an hour train ride, we finally arrived back in Kyoto. We dropped Ravinder off, said our farewells, and returned to our hotel for a sleep.

The red gates of Fushimi Inari-taishi

We woke at 7:30 on Sunday and decided to take things a bit easier today. Nevertheless, we were out of the hotel by 10ish. We caught the subway down to Fushimi Inari-taishi, otherwise known as the Red Gates, otherwise knows as Hell is Other People.

The combination of it being a Sunday and a popular tourist destination made for a horde of people. We joined the throng, going along a vendor-lined street. Glen bought wagyu on a stick and I laughed at the photos I took of him eating it.

We entered the temple complex then joined the line of people marching beneath the gates, everyone trying to get a photo but unable to get one (rarely) without other people in it. Interestingly, if you look back the way you came, you see black writing on the columns which isn’t visible from the other way. With no interpretation around, I wasn’t sure what it all meant.

The crowd thinned a little the more you get to the top. We didn’t do the full loop but probably got a third of the way up, then turned around and came back. We got some photos and I contemplated writing a book about how god awful travel.

Back down the hill we went and caught the train back to Sanjo in the city. We walked to the handkerchief place so Glen could buy some for his mum, then we went for lunch on the seventh floor of a department store (sushi, soba and tempura – I liked it and it didn’t come with the stress of figuring out what to eat). Next stop was a 7-Eleven to get more cash and then to Aritsuga, the knife shop in Nishiki Market, and bought a wonderfully sharp kitchen knife.

After that, Glen saw a massage parlour so went for a 30-minute massage while I went back to the hotel to do various odds and ends. My feet hurt, I didn’t want to buy anything else, and I didn’t want to see another temple.

In the evening Glen wanted steak so we went for steak. Luckily they had chicken. The staff at the hotel had explained to the restaurant when they rang that I didn’t eat red meat or pork so for the little amuse bouche they gave me smoke salmon. Really considerate of them. We ate our food, had dessert, had some drinks, and then wandered home.

Such was our last evening in Kyoto. Not that I’ve got a need to go again, but I’d probably opt for more experiences next time, such as a tea ceremony or origami class. Then again, I can probably do that elsewhere and somewhere new.

Osaka and home

The next day we’d decided we’d just go to the hotel at the Osaka airport and chill. We caught the train, arrived sometime around one, had lunch and checked in. There were a couple of things in Osaka we thought might be interesting – the noodle museum and Universal Studios – but the airport was over an hour on the train from each, we were running out of time, it was cold, and unfortunately I had just received some work from my publisher that I needed to get on to. So Monday was very much a chill day.

The next morning we packed up, went to the airport, checked in, fast-tracked past the horror security queue, and then sat in the lounge until our flight. We’d managed to get business seats from Osaka to Hong Kong. Then in Hong Kong we used the lounge (The Pier, very nice) before our Premium Economy seats into Perth, landing about 10:30.

We were home and while I was glad for some of it, I actually really wanted to go skiing again. Whoever would have thought I’d find it addictive?

Kyoto – Part One

We’d heard a lot of good things about Kyoto…which always worries me. Other people’s experiences and high praise of things usually results in me being underwhelmed. Nevertheless, Kyoto appeared to be offering a bit more of the ‘Japanese’ experience than being surrounded by a lot of foreigners (mostly Aussies) in the snowfields of Hokkaido. We’d been to Tokyo last time so Kyoto was the next destination after Niseko.

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A long day of travel

For such a small (group of) island(s), it took a long time for us to get from Niseko to Kyoto. On Thursday we took the shuttle from Niseko (probably a little earlier than necessary) to New Chitose airport and then had about three hours to kill there. (We shopped, ate and looked at the inner workings of the chocolate factory.)

Then we flew down to Osaka (a couple of hours) and then caught a train to Kyoto (another couple of hours) and then a subway to near our AirBnB. We arrived at about 8pm so it was nearly 12 hours worth of travelling.

I’d booked an AirBnB because Glen and I wanted something that was a bit ryokan like. We probably should have paid for a proper ryokan guesthouse but instead we got someone’s house. It was bloody freezing until we put all the heaters on. It was quaint and small, with tatami mats and sliding paper doors. I guess that’s what we were after.

After the host left us, we went looking for a restaurant, finding one that had pictures of a few dishes and then an eel drawing on the sign. I had reservations but Glen was gun-ho so we went in.

They only served eel. Glen doesn’t eat eel. But by then we were inside (we were the only other set of customers in there apart from a man and woman) and we’d been given tea.  So we ordered one meal between the two of us, which had rice, soup and some veg, as well as grilled eel.

The eel wasn’t bad and I made the way through it for the both of us. The restaurant was warm, a family affair, and an adventure. Glen was still a bit horrified. We then went to the supermarket downstairs and bought things for breakfast and snacks, then went home and snuck off to bed with the heaters on.

Temples, monkeys and markets

We roused ourselves early enough on Friday morning to go meet our friend Ravinder, who was also in town from Perth for a few days, at the Golden Pavilion. This meant taking a couple of buses. Thank god for Google. We figured it out and luckily I’d read how to use the system and what you paid in Lonely Planet. We caught our two buses, the second (205), full of tourists (and some monks) heading to the very popular Golden Pavilion.

We didn’t see Ravinder and she didn’t have wifi so we went in, navigating around tourists. Golden Pavilion was beautifully scenic, especially when the pond was still and reflective. We eventually got away from the crowds and wandered around the rest of the gardens. The crowds intensified again at the souvenir stands. We then exited and sat to have a bit of food and to see if we could find Ravinder. Glen eventually spotted her; she was looking for us too. Mission accomplished.

We caught a taxi to the bamboo forest, having a few bits of food at the food stalls just at the entrance. I had one of those fish pastries with the red bean paste centre, and then a blobby dough thing dipped in sugar soy sauce, which was gross.

The bamboo forest wasn’t as impressive as we were all expected, probably to do with it only being a small area and you walk along a stone path rather than through the forest. But there was a really nice bit so I was happy.

Next stop was the monkey park but we stopped along the way, besides the river, and had some lunch. Ravinder and I had a really nice set menu thing with some fried croquette things, vegetable selection, miso soup and rice. I loved it. Glen’s wasn’t so enjoyable for him.

Across the bridge to the monkey forest and then the killer walk up the hill to the top where the macaques were. They were wandering around and there was a caged building where you go inside and feed the macaques hanging outside. It was pretty cool, though they’re fairly habituated and probably very overweight.

And then we wandered down, walked to the train, caught that all the way to near Ravinder’s hotel and the Nishiki Market. We went through Takashimaya department store, ogling all the desserts and chocolates and sweets, then the different food on display. We bought some sweets and then some pastries, walked down some shops in the Nishiki area.

Glen bought some new shoes – FINALLY! He’s been moaning about those shoes for god knows how many years and on god knows how many trips.

It took forever to get through the shops and I was glad when we finally reached the hotel and stopped for a drink and some food. We then walked through more markets and I bought some new hiking type shoes to replace my boots as they’ve got a hole in them.

A lot of the Nishiki Market was closing down as it was late so we walked more streets, into Gion, saw where the geisha restaurants were (and caught a glimpse of three real geishas rushing into a building beneath the flash of cameras.

We then walked along the street behind the river. By this time I was hangry and tired and just wanted to eat but there were the usual problems of not being able to read the menus or finding something we can settle on.

We eventually choose a place where you cook your food on a hot rock. We had the big room with the window view all to ourselves. Ravinder and I had the fish set and it wasn’t bad. I was just glad to eat.

After dinner, we said our goodbyes and Glen and I caught a taxi home and returned to the freezing house. We had more to do tomorrow.

Daintree Rainforest Day Tour

On Wednesday I went for a day tour of a small part of the Daintree Rainforest in Queensland with tour company Billy Tea Tours. The day started with me getting picked up at 7am in Cairns and then driving north to pick up the rest of the tour group, a mix of nationalities and ages.

Our first proper stop was to catch a boat and take an hour-long cruise down the Daintree River. I think this was the best part of the tour as we saw the most wildlife here. This included three crocodiles (including one big one called Scarface), a brilliant blue kingfisher, three tree snakes, a Papuan frogmouth and other birds.

Whenever the boat stopped, the oppressive humidity slopped in and made everything uncomfortable. The bonus was we could get some photos (but I was glad after a while to get moving again). We met our bus driver at the river ferry on the other side and set off to a lookout.

The takeaway I got from the tour was that the rainforest was dinosaur country. It has three of the prehistoric tree types – conifers, cycads, and ferns – plus a lot else that more than qualifies the Daintree Rainforest as a world heritage site.

We took a walk along a boardwalk through the rainforest as the guide told us bits and pieces about the flora and fauna. One thing that really interested me was the purple fruits that he called the cassowary plum. Without the cassowary swallowing these fruits and stripping the flesh to reveal the seeds, the tree they grow on wouldn’t be able to survive. A great example of the cassowary as a keystone species.

Unfortunately, we didn’t see any cassowaries during this trip. Next time though.

We had lunch further up in the rainforest, where we also fed Agile and Swamp Wallabies. Very adorable. I, unfortunately, got into a conversation with a couple of 70-year-olds from Colorado who voted for Trump. I couldn’t get away fast enough. Considering this was also the day of the same-sex marriage survey results, I was already feeling pretty raw.

After lunch we headed up to Emmagen Creek. No crocodiles in this part of the river so we were allowed to go for a swim. The rain was starting to come in so it wasn’t as warm as expected but definitely not freezing. I was first one to get in, and a few others finally plucked up the courage to submerge themselves.

Meanwhile the guides set up tables of tropical fruit, damper and billy tea. The rain bucketed down on us for a while so rather than get dressed, I was standing around in my speedos eating mango, sour pop, black sapote, papaya and jackfruit. Couldn’t get any wetter so why not.

The rain stopped, we ate damper, warmed up with a cup of Daintree tea and then set off for a beach on Cape Tribulation. No swimming allowed as crocodiles swim all up and down the coast, but we watched tiny crabs pushing balls of sand out of chambers in the beach. I also got changed.

Drive back down we stopped at an icecream shop that makes different flavours depending on what’s in season. Today’s four-scoop selection included coconut, wattleseed, soursop and passionfruit. I probably didn’t need it but I had it anyway.

We zoomed back down the rainforest, caught the car ferry across and then continued down the coast, dropping people off as we went. I was home by 6.

If I ever go again, and I think Glen should come and see it too, I’d prefer to do one that includes more venturing into the rainforest (despite the snakes and the large tarantulas I know live in there) with the hope of seeing more wildlife. The tour I did was a good taste for now.

A Day on the Great Barrier Reef

After my conference in Brisbane, I’d booked to head up to Cairns to check out the Great Barrier Reef and the Daintree Rainforest. Glen vowed never to go on a boat again (he gets bad seasickness) so considering how “close” I was, it seemed like the best opportunity.

I arrived in Cairns on Monday afternoon and had a day on the outer reef booked through Tusa Dive T6 for Tuesday. I walked to the marina just after 7am for a 7:40am departure with about 20 other people.

After setting off we had a 1.5–2-hour journey to Norman Reef. While the sky didn’t look too foreboding or the seas all that rough, the swell was significant and after about an hour I was out the back of the boat hurling up my breakfast.

Much embarrassed, I wasn’t the only one to be feeling ill (this is despite taking the seasickness pills that were being sold – perhaps I needed something stronger). Others joined me, were handed white paper bags and looked green as until we reached the reef and the rocking of the boat eased. I did feel much better after throwing up a few times though.

Dressed in a wetsuit and carrying a pool noodle, I went snorkelling through the reef. The highlight was seeing a medium-sized Hawksbill Turtle (so cute) and a rather large fish, the name of which I’ve forgotten, who kept following the photographer around.

We swam around for about 1.5–2 hours. Saw loads of fish and coral. It wasn’t as bright as I was expecting (or hoping) but I was staggered at the size of some of the coral (they look more like giant boulders). Plenty of colourful fish as well.

After snorkelling, the boat moved to another location, we had lunch (I didn’t eat much, worried about the return journey to Cairns) but it was good food, and then fell asleep during the nature talk (probably due to the seasickness pill).

Next stop was Saxon Reef for another snorkel, this time 1.5 hours. Giant reef shelves here with also a lot that were shallow and close to the surface (had to be careful not to kick the coral).

Highlights here were the giant clams. The largest ones were too far for me to reach but still easy to see. They’re huge. Also saw two dead ones with the halves sitting there being picked at by fish. The other bonus was seeing a long white-tipped reef shark in the distance. I wasn’t fast enough to get closer but was impressive to see from afar.

No seahorses. No Nemo or Dory (though I think someone else saw Dory). Nevertheless, I was glad I got to see it, experience a small part of this amazing and large reef, and sad that so much of it has been destroyed. (Being a tourist probably doesn’t help much either.)

Back on the boat and about 1.5 hours back to shore. While on the journey, I realised how sunburnt the backs of my legs had gotten because I stupidly went without putting sunscreen on. Tomorrow they’re going to be worse.

No seasickness this time (unlike the poor guy who didn’t get a bag in time) and I slept for part of it. We arrived back at the marina at 4pm and went our separate ways.

Conquering Kings Canyon

On taking the early morning rim walk around Kings Canyon and the Karrke Aboriginal tour.

Much to Glen’s horror (and mine if I’m honest), we were up before the sun on Sunday morning so we could go on the early morning rim walk around Kings Canyon. We wolfed down some breakfast with a bunch of other eager hikers and then went to reception to meet our guide.

Glen and I were the only ones going on the tour so we had the guide to ourselves (as well as a giant bus). We arrived at Kings Canyon with the sun almost ready to burst over the rim. The guide, Marcus, was happy to have just two, seemingly fit, “young” people in his group as that meant no stragglers and no waiting for people with dodgy hips etc. The walk, advertised to take about 3 to 4 hours was going to be over in no time.

Walking the Kings Canyon Rim

We started with the 500 steps up the side of the canyon, setting a cracking pace that left my throat burning and my lungs heaving by the time we reached the top. We then set off around the rim, going through staggeringly beautiful rock formations bathed in the sunrise light. The rocks were so red!

We passed through Priscilla’s Crack, a split in between two rocks that featured in Priscilla Queen of the Desert. We’ll have to watch the movie again now. There was also a tree that Elle McPherson had posed against. You can easily understand why it’s a popular spot for photos.

We continued on at a good speed, heading out to lookouts, seeing fossils that Marcus wouldn’t normally stop for if there was a larger group. (So happy was he to have only the two of us that he mentioned it to just about every other tour-led group, inspiring envy as we left their 24-strong hordes behind.)

On one of these slight detours we spotted a wallaroo (or Euro if you’re from WA) amongst the spinifex. Hooray for wildlife sightings!

We bumped into the British doctors we met at the Fields of Light dinner at Uluru; they were hurrying to get it done before embarking on their 500km-drive back to Alice Springs to catch their plane.

We went up and down rock ledges, down to the Garden of Eden (a water hole that can no longer be swum in because of all the sunscreen polluting the water), and I finally got to eat something off a bush – a native fig. Tasted like a fig.

We took photos along the way, continued our march that didn’t feel too strenuous for most of it, and then came around the other side of the canyon and began our descent. We reached the bottom two and a half hours after we’d started. If we’d not stopped, we would have easily done it in two, but then we wouldn’t have seen anything.

We got back on the bus with another group of people who’d done the shorter and easier creek walk and then arrived back at the resort at about 10am to find that Optus had installed a mobile phone tower nearby and we had signal again. (We’d been without it since yesterday…yet managed to survive.)

Karrke Tour

The middle of our day passed with naps, lunch, and reading, until we had an Aboriginal cultural tour booked for 4pm. It took place about half an hour down the road and was called the Karrke Tour. (Karrke is the name of the bowerbird local to these parts.)

We were greeted and joined a German couple who were halfway through their tour. The tour guides, Peter and Christine, took us to different stations where we learnt about different types of ochre, making jewellery, and bush tucker. They showed us live honey ants, their abdomens full of juice, and then how to cook a witchety grub. They pop when they’re done. After that it was different medicinal plants.

The Germans then finished and we continued on to see the large amounts of work involved in collecting and grinding seeds to make a type of flour and then turn that into a tasteless, utilitarian bread.

We were shown different hunting tools and weapons, and then real live witchety grubs as they were extracted out of the roots of trees. They’re soft and squishy to touch, pretty big for a bug and apparently taste of raw egg when raw. When they’re cooked, they take on the taste of the tree they were growing in so if they burrowed into eucalyptus leaves, they’d taste of eucalyptus.

The tour went for half an hour, was well structured, very interesting and Peter and Christine friendly and engaging. I’m glad we went along. While we were chatting to Peter on our way back to the car, we said how we’d seen a wallaroo earlier in the day. He said he’d lived there 15 years and only seen them three times, that’s how rare and shy they are. He also said that the number of kangaroos and emus has gotten low so now they’re a rare sight too, when before they’d be plenty of them to see. We were now more likely to see dingos (which we had).

Back at the resort, we packed our bags, went for dinner and had an early night ready for our return to Uluru in the morning and then our flights home.

Kata-Tjuta to Kings Canyon

On visiting Kata Tjuta, walking the Valley of the Winds and Walpo Gorge, seeing wildlife (perentie, dingo and eagle) and arriving at Kings Canyon.

I was keen to get going early on Saturday morning as the Valley of the Winds in Kata Tjuta (formerly The Olgas) had closed the previous day after 11am due to the heat, as well as us having to drive 300 km to Kings Canyon in time for dinner.

Despite this, however, when the alarm went off at 6am, Glen and I both dismissed the alarms and went back to sleep. I thought Glen had a backup alarm set for 6:30am but he didn’t (at least not for a Saturday morning) and we both woke up at 7am instead. A quick shower, a quick breakfast and we were on the road before 8am.

Kata-Tjuta

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Kata-Tjuta (the Olgas) is the other big rock (or collection of rocks) on the horizon in Uluru – Kata-Tjuta National Park. From a distance it reminds me of a sculpture gone wrong with bits jutting out all over the place; or like it’s the unfinished version of Uluru.

I drove us to Kata-Tjutu and straight to the Valley of the Winds, which was due to close at 11am due to the rising temperature (slated to be 37°C). There are two lookout points at Kata Tjuta, one easily reached, the other part of a 7km loop. We set off and I wanted to at least get to the second lookout, and agreed with Glen that we didn’t need to do the full loop which would take about 3 hours.

We got to the first lookout, continued on through the gorge, and ascended to the second lookout. We were soon joined by about 25 high school students on some sort of trip, perhaps a last hurrah for year 12. We took our photos, rehydrated and then returned, bumping into the couple from Sydney we’d met the night before. They were going to do the full loop…and more power to them. We were quite satisfied with what we’d seen haha.

The trip took us about two hours with breaks included. It lived up to its name with the channel being quite windy. We made a stupid joke about Glen’s name meaning ‘Valley’ so he was ‘Glen of the Winds’ for a while and you can imagine the connotation that has.

Back at the car we headed for Walpo Gorge, a 1km trip that took about an hour return. It was spacious, rocky and ended in a cool shady spot. I was thrilled that, along the way, I spotted a 1-metre long perentie, happily strolling along beside the path. That provided much amusement – and filled a gap in what has been a fairly wildlife-free trip.

While it’s been awesome to see these iconic Australian places, I’ve got to say that as far as gorges go, Karajini National Park is by far the best we’ve been to.

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Uluru to Kings Canyon

After Walpo Gorge we hopped back in the car, got petrol at the resort and then booked it up the Lasseter Highway to reach Kings Canyon. Google said it would take four hours but somewhere I managed to do it in three. (It would have been 2 hours 45 minutes if we hadn’t stopped a couple of times.)

The drive was uneventful all except for THE DINGO! Glen spotted a sign for a rest stop and wanted to pull over. When I pulled in, I headed for a park bench and pulled up alongside it. At which point we both noticed the dingo sitting under the bench. It was completely unperturbed by our presence. We took our photos, and for some reason Glen didn’t want to get out and say hello.

We left after five minutes. I was absolutely thrilled to see a wild dingo. During the drive we’d also seen a wedge-tailed eagle flying overhead, which brings our animal count to about six (including zebra finches, rock pigeons and a small lizard).

We arrived at Kings Canyon Resort a little after 3pm and checked in. The guy at the counter seemed a bit unsure about what the hell was going on. He gave us our room key but we’d booked a package that came with a bunch of other things so it was a bit of rigamarole from there on. It was all sorted in the end though and we booked, for Sunday, a 6:30am Kings Canyon rim walk (ugh…so early), as well as a cultural tour at 4pm.

After getting into our room, we crawled into bed for a few hours and woke up groggy at 5:30. We’d booked another special dinner, again outside. I’m not sure about Glen but I was starting to feel a little over fancy dinners by this stage but we’d paid for it so we went. I think it’s been the best food out of the three we’ve been on.

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Dingo!

Under a Desert Moon

We joined two other couples – one from Melbourne with four kids and another from Brisbane nearing their seventies – for champagne and canapés. Conversation began with where we were all from and quickly progressed to talk about Uluru and dingoes.

We then were shown to our tables, each seating two and placed around a fire, which at the start of the evening was too hot for all of us but was eventually forgotten and pleasantly comforting.

We had a six-course degustation that took Australian ingredients and gave them a different twist. Remarkably there was no lemon myrtle. We had kangaroo loin with mushrooms, emu koftas (and other Middle Eastern inspired flavours), a delicious granita of passionfruit and pineapple (which tasted like a frosty fruit and I could have eaten way more), barramundi with beurre blanc and parsnips, and then a macadamia baklava with bush berries and vanilla icecream. Delicious!

Conversation bounced across the tables as we shared our experiences of what we’d seen and done. I think that when people look at Glen and I they think we’re in our twenties and we’re doing these things as our ‘one nice treat’ on a holiday that would otherwise be spent in backpackers or in the back of a 4WD. I think they’re surprised when they find out what we’ve done.

Thankfully dinner was all over by about 8:45 because that meant we could have an early night. We said our farewells and got back to the room, preparing ourselves for an early morning start. I think Glen’s hankering for one of those sit-by-the-pool holidays…I might be as well.

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.