Last day in Australia, sitting in the internet cafe of the old Victoria Hotel in Melbourne trying to put together a precis of our time in Oz - such a huge country - so much left unseen and such a whirl of impressions..
Great being met by Morag and Ian at Sydney airport on arrival, and whisked off to their lovely house in Engadine, south of Sydney for hot and cold drinks, baths, pool, birds all around and all the comforts of home - not to mention full guided tours for the next few days.
And I can never thank them enough for introducing me to my first real koala!!!(You'll guess it's Alison writing) Fur that smelled of eucalyptus and felt like a soft shaving brush....brilliant.
(This is Tim just putting his nose in to say that while the wife was getting on so famously with her koala I decided I was more of a marsupial type and as you see ended up learning a few tips on knee-bending and generally bouncing around.
Whether it was this that put my knee out or our recent descent by foot from the Peak in Hong Kong we don't know, but hoping it'll be right before the Inca Trail. The doc in Hobart thought it could be deep vein thrombosis, which was more or less what got my Mum finally last year, but after an anxious few hours an ultrasound scan ruled out any bloodclots in my case...so no real worries as they say). Ok, sorry, back to A:
Typically we brought unseasonal wet weather with us so were able to experience a few dramatic thunderstorms as well as some genuine sun and surf.
Then on to Sydney itself for Mardi Gras with Mike and Lisa (so that's 2 more for the East Asia Today team in the bag as well) - which also explains the photo at the top. We managed to see quite a bit of the pre-march gathering but then went and had a meal and by the time we rejoined the parade we needed more than the $5 plastic milk crate to stand on to see over so many heads..but great fun and a really good atmosphere. Anyway, it was better to catch up with old friends than watch 100 Kylie Minogue clones dancing along...on balance!
A last minute tracking down of Denise led to a good lunch in the quaint Prince Edward Yacht Club and even more catching up, and getting to meet her husband David who seems a good guy.
Having trouble getting these photos to stay put but I hope you can work out who's who. (That's me with denise, says tim, not a kangaroo.... nor even david, whom i have passed -- pete and harry will be glad to know -- as totally suitable and generally good for our old pal. It was 35 years since i'd seen her as those who've read her recent comment (see post 1) will know. Mike and Lisa were also in good form (no, that's not mike in drag at the top of the page,l though we do seem to be making a habit of such pictures) ... she's clearly continuing to provide him with lots of raw material for his post Cold Feet and Life Begins scriptwriting. OK, back to A again)
From Sydney to Tasmania which reminded me strongly of the north west of Scotland - only tons more of it - and we only saw a little of the South West with some walking through wilderness forests and along pristine shoreline - the air really is so clear and clean that you feel your eyes have been refocused. Lots more beautiful birds including tiny wrens all round the cabin where we stayed (and where it was pretty cold) Hobart was nice, very manageable and Tim saw some cricket while I walked and shopped (one more parcel, seamail)...
On, on up beyond Hobart to Mt Field National Park in the quest for a live platypus (we WERE staying at a riverside cottage called Platypus Playground) but it wasn't to be despite all our efforts. Lots of squashed roadkill, I'm afraid, wallabies, possums and cute little wallaby-esque things called poteroos and pademelons. But we did also manage to see quite a lot of them alive, plus 2 large wombats...
And so here we are with many promises to come back and see more of this beautiful country (haven't even got round to the food yet, not to mention the wines - thanks Ian & Morag for your sterling work in that area!).
Oh and in Tasmania we also saw some remarkable old forests with fantastic mosses and tree ferns - and we did a brilliant 'sky-walk' among the canopy of old woods in the Huon Valley - looking down on birds and passing an owl in its hole at the top of a tree looking back at us...I'm sure I've left out many other highlights so shall leave this to Tim to finish off but I for one shall be sad to leave...
No, i've already butted in and generally hopped around on my bad leg quite enough and am in danger of finishing up as roadkill myself i reckon. I'd just second the emotion about it being a mindblowingly fair dinkum not to say fab country, and end by giving you the quote from which the title's taken, which i found inscribed under a statue of former Tassie player Alan Border at the Bellerive Oval:
"Under the southern cross I stand, A sprig of wattle in my hand; A native in my native land -- Australia, you bloody beauty."
Oh, and Happy Birthday to Hal too -- thanks Lornetta! -- and to Bora (how we going on the playstation front?) ...and to Laurent for that matter -- yes, hope to see you in Ithaca...but where exactly is it?
ps: Melbourne, based on our one night here before NZ, seems a fun-seeming mix of old and new and brimming for some reason with Chinese and other asian students -- all in centre of town tonight for a Water Festival not to mention various fashion, film and other festivals).