Magnetic Island – A Hidden Gem

We arrived in Townsville on Wednesday afternoon and headed straight to the ferry. A short 25 minute ride and we arrived in paradise! Words and pictures will never begin to describe how beautiful this island is. It consists of four main bays. We landed in Nelly Bay. Our Bnb was in Picnic Bay. Geoffrey Bay is where they feed the rock wallabies and Horseshoe Bay, on the other side of the island is where most of the watersports happen. There is a bus that runs from one end to the other. For 7 bucks you can get on and off all day long.

Murray and Rhonda, our hosts, suggested that we do a short hike up behind their house. Hawksbury Point is only 600 metres from bottom to top. The terrain is rough and it is a pretty steady climb. We were rewarded with a spectacular view of Picnic and Nelly Bay. We could see Townsville and many other islands of which we have no clue what they are called.

After a quick lunch we hopped the bus and got off at Geoffrey Bay. We wandered about and seeing no wallabies, we thought we’d start walking towards The Forts which is where the koalas live in the wild. It was a pretty decent walk, lots of hills and rocky pathways. Once at The Forts, the information board tells us that the circuit is 1.9 kms and to allow two hours to complete. That must be for real slowpokes! Off we go! The slope is a gentle incline. We meet a few folks on their way back who tell us that there is a mommy koala with her baby sleeping up in a tree. We are finally rewarded with our first koala! So fuzzy and cute! And so sleepy! Richard takes a few pictures and we continue on. The surroundings are amazing – many different trees, birds and vegetation. Rocks and escarpments on one side of us and valley and clear blue ocean on the other. Paradise! We start to see signs for The Forts and the way gets steeper. In fact, we are now just walking up stone steps – some large, some small. And up. And up. And Up! But the rewards are great for those who persevere! The Forts was the first line of defense to protect the bay during the war. The lookout towers and signal stations were high atop the rocks. And we got to the top! Can’t imagine the men and women that made that trek up there everyday carrying a full army kit. Makes you appreciate these folks for what they do to protect us every day.

The view is fantastic! A 300 degree sight line. The day is clear and we can see for miles! If only we knew what all those damn islands were called!

The walk down is pretty steep and just a little treacherous. We make it down and see our koala again – still sleeping. Total time of our walk – two and a half hours. So I guess we are slow pokes!

Off to Horseshoe Bay for a drink and to watch the sunset. There is a horse pasture along the way so we stop to say hello to the horses that are hanging out at the fence and to video the kangaroos that are eating the horse feed. The horses love the attention but the roos are spooked and hop off to a safe distance. At the bay, the drink is lovely, the sunset disappointing. Nothing beats a Manitoba sunset – at least nothing that we’ve seen yet.

Back to Picnic Bay for an authentic Italian meal at a local restaurant. A nice bottle of wine and some pasta end our day on Magnetic Island.

As we were unaware of what a gem this is, we only booked a two night, one day stay. If anyone is coming around this way, I would suggest at least a couple of days. There is so much to see and do. I would highly recommend this island.

So, now we’re on the bus travelling south along the coast to Airlie Beach and the Whitsundays. We have a tour booked for Sunday on a schooner. How fun!

For those that are keeping track, we’re down another water bottle. It got lost somewhere between Townsville airport, the ferry depot on either end or the ferry itself. Sigh.

Until next time,

The Happy Wanderer

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Vegemite

So…… While in Australia we had to try Vegemite of course, (look it up) it is an Aussie staple. Col would rather listen to wrap music then eat it again. Me on the other hand I had it every morning while in Sydney. I had it with bananas and also naked and I have to say it was okay.

Final Day – Sydney

We are a little behind in our blogging so pictures will follow

We made it to the mountains and it was spectacular!! Sasha, Norman, Richard and I took the train from Sydney up to Katoomba in the Blue Mountains. This is about a 2 hour trip filled with lovely views of trees, valleys and hillsides.  Once at Katoomba, we walked through the town to see the canyon and the Three Sisters. The legend of the Three Sisters is that according to Gundungurra Dreaming three sisters fell in love with three brothers from an enemy tribe. War ensued and the Kurajuri (clever man) turned the three girls into stone to keep them safe. Unfortunately, he was killed in battle and the spell has never been broken. The views of the Three Sisters, the valley below and the mountains surrounding are magnificent. Our pictures will not do it justice. There are a number of walking trails that will take you down to the valley floor and a train that will take you back up. As we were only there for the day, we were unable to complete any of these. However, if we ever get the chance to come back to Sydney, we would definitely like to take a couple of days to explore this area more thoroughly. We wandered back into town and stopped at the Hatter’s Cafe for a lovely meal of fish and chips. I even finished it off with a triple chocolate muffin – it was delicious!!

We got back to Sydney around 6:30 PM. We said our final goodbyes to Norman at the train station. It was so wonderful to see him again after all these years and spend some time visiting.  I see many family resemblances and hope that he will be able to come to Canada again soon to visit with us.

Once back at the flat, Richard and I packed our bags, had a couple of glasses of wine with Ruth and Sasha, watched another Aussie movie, played some guitar and sang (Sasha is a musician as well) and called it a night. As today is a travel day, we said our goodbyes to Sasha and Ruth this morning when we caught our cab to the airport. I cannot say enough thank you’s to these two people who did not know us from Adam but opened their home to us, sharing their meals and their wisdom. They took us exploring, showed us how to work the bus system, shared tales of their own journeys and generally made us feel so welcome. Thank you, thank you, thank you Ruth and Sasha. You have shown us what it is to be a good traveller and a good person. We look forward to seeing you in Canada!!

So, it is off to Townsville today. Townsville? Where the heck is that? Well, it is south of Cairns and north of the Whitsundays – about halfway in between on the Sunshine Coast. My niece Tessa was there this spring doing her student teaching and she assures us that this is the best place to see the Great Barrier Reef and is within train/bus distance to see both the aforementioned places. We are looking forward to some warmer temperatures (Sydney was quite cool), spending some time hiking on Magnetic Island, sailing up the coast and general R&R. See you in Townsville!!

Sydney, Australia- Day 4

Unfortunately, when we woke up this morning it was cloudy and raining. That cancelled our train trip up to the mountains as we wouldn’t be able to see anything. PlanB – Norman came over and picked us up and took us for a drive up to Palm Beach which is the northern most point of Sydney. We had an authentic Australian burger there. This is much like our burgers but it has a fried egg on top. After lunch we drove back into Sydney through a wilderness park, past the Olympic park (Olympics were held here in 2000) and ended up at Norman’s place in an area called Greenacre. We had a cup of tea, looked at some pictures and Norman drove us back “home”. More visiting, watched some television and off to bed. Hoping for nice weather in the morning so that we can spend our last day in Sydney in the Blue Mountains.

Sydney, Australia – Day 3

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Another lazy Sunday morning at Ruth and Sasha’s. Richard and I tried vegemite for the first time. It has a weird, salty, pasty taste much like a gooey soy sauce. I can say that I didn’t care for it but Richard ate his toast and asked for another.

About noon the four of us took the bus down to Circular Quay. There we boarded a ferry for Manly Beach, one of the most popular beaches in Sydney. After about a 40 minute ride through Sydney Harbour, we docked at the Manly Beach Promenade. We walked by a number of shops before we reached the beach. As the weather is quite cool here (it is still winter), we walked along the shoreline admiring the many, expensive apartments and shops that line the walkway. We nipped into a little pub and eatery and had 3 glasses of wine and Richard had a beer. We all shared a plate of hot chips. That little snack cost $52 Australian Dollars. I would have ordered a cocktail but it was $18!! We had heard that the alcohol was ridiculously expensive in Sydney. They weren’t kidding!! Our saving grace is that the Canadian and Australian dollar is pretty much on par. In the US we would spend $35 on a couple drinks and snacks but the credit card came out at $50 anyway!!

We retraced our route back home, Ruth prepared a wonderful meal of linguine with an authentic Italian pesto sauce (absolutely divine!!) and we settled in to watch some authentic Aussie television. Russell Coight – All Aussie Adventures was silly and hilarious. We then watched the movie Red Dog which is the story of a legendary dog from Western Australia that travelled around looking out for people. Much like our own Littlest Hobo. We turned in fairly early to get some sleep for the adventures that await us in the morning. Good night everyone!!

Sydney, Australia – Day Two

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Though the day started fairly lazy (conversation and coffee with Sasha and Ruth), we got rolling at about noon and the day did not disappoint. Sasha is a wonderful tour guide and is very proud of his city. We walked past Centennial Park along  Anzac Parade passing the cricket and rugby fields, down Oxford Street, past Hyde Park on College and into the Domain where a number of concerts are held every summer. From there we entered into the beautiful Botanical Gardens. At this point we got caught in a downpour which had been threatening all day. As the saying goes, there is never any bad weather, just bad clothing and we were prepared. We pulled out our rain jackets and waited under a large Banyan tree for the worst of the rain to pass. Once it let up, we continued on our journey through the Botanical Gardens and came out the other side at Sydney Harbour. There we caught our first glimpse of Sydney Opera House. It is magnificent!! I can only imagine the number of concerts that have taken place in those auditoriums!! Of course the Sydney Harbour Bridge is right there as well, and we oohed and aahed and took some pictures. We could see people doing the bridge climb which is just at it sounds. Climbing to the top of the bridge. Not really my cup of tea though Richard thought if his knee was good he would have liked to make the attempt. We then made our way towards the Rocks along the Circular Quay skirting by the wharfs where cruise ships and ferries alike dock. The Rocks was one of the original areas of Sydney. It was established around 1790 and was home to convicts, sailors and prostitutes. All I have read on the area indicates that this has always be a rough, poor area of town. In the late 1960’s, early 70’s, Sydney council had decided to demolish the buildings and put up new highrises. This caused quite the stir in the area as it would displace a number of people still living there. After a number of protests, a new group was formed and it was decided that they would renovate the buildings while preserving the history of them. As a result, this area is now a thriving area of historical buildings, quaint gift shops, pubs and museums. After stopping at the Australian pub (yes, that is actually the name) for a couple of beers and a bag of crisps, it was time to head for home. As we had already walked about 8 miles we decided to catch a bus. It was getting close to supper time!!

Supper was wonderful!! We met up with Norman and his sister Christine (we have now determined that we are second cousins – their dad and my dad were first cousins) and went to a Lebanese restaurant within walking distance of Sasha and Ruth’s home. Having never had Lebanese food I was not sure what to expect. Though I have worried that I will not want to eat many “new” foods on this trip, I have found that I must try and experience all the cultures that I am exploring. This will include the food. As Australia is a melting pot of cultures, as is Canada, there are a number of food choices to be had. Hence, the Lebanese restaurant. I must say that the food was different from anything that I have tried before but the flavours were terrific!! We had a wonderful evening of food and fellowship and later back at Sasha and Ruth’s flat, Norman, Christine and I reminisced about childhoods, family and friendships. We lamented that our families never met until so much later in life. I feel sad that my dad and his siblings never knew their cousins. We are so happy that we have made these connections now and with promises of coming to Canada in the future to meet the rest of the family, we said goodbye to Christine and Norman close to midnight. Though I will see Norman a few more times, Christine will be heading back to Brisbane today to be with her family. I cannot even put into words how much I enjoyed meeting these people that are my FAMILY!

Hello from Down Under

After an uneventful 10 hour flight, we arrived in Sydney mid afternoon Friday. Because we crossed the international date line we lost an entire day! We navigated our way through various stations of immigration, collected our bags and after a final look at our papers we were finally released to be met in the arrivals area by my cousin Norman and his friend Sasha. I believe that Norman and my dad were 2nd cousins but I’ll have to review the lineage on that. Norman drove us to Sasha’s where we will be staying with him and his wife Ruth while we are in Sydney. Norman and I spent the afternoon catching up on family while Richard and Sasha talked travel. Sasha and Ruth have been to over 50 countries around the world so they are a wealth of information.

Norman had to “bugger off ” so Sasha, Ruth, Richard and I went to a nice little Tex Mex restaurant about a 20 minute walk from their flat. It looks like a wonderful neighborhood that we are staying in and I can’t wait to begin exploring! We appear to be quite close the the opera house and Sydney harbour (Google maps is a wonderful thing!). Looking forward to a great day in the land of Oz!

Leaving Honolulu

Whew! It looks like we will be getting on the flight to Sydney, Australia! Hurricane Lane is really causing havoc here. And the storm hasn’t even hit yet! As Richard mentioned yesterday, people at the airport were crazy! We were able to get to the airport early enough this morning so we missed the bulk of the crowds. Even so, pretty happy to hear the boarding call for our flight.

We spent about 18 hours in Honolulu – about 6 of them here at the airport. We spent the remaining hours at our Bnb in Ewa Beach. We did some biking, some eating and some relaxing – a typical retirement day.

Our Bnb was lovely. In fact it was so new that it does not yet appear on Google maps. That causes a bit of a concern when calling an Uber or taxi as they run their businesses through Google maps. So after a few anxious moments of wondering if our Uber would find us this morning, he did show up nice and early. He said that he was the only one on the road last night. Even the Uber drivers are hunkered down for the storm!

Well, they are calling our seats now so will conclude this post. See you on Australia!

Ewa Beach Honolulu

This was the beach which was a skip and a jump from our Airbnb in Honolulu. What was interesting about this place was the amount of people living on the beach. A lot of them had vehicles to go along with their BBQs, tents, etc. Looks like it would be a great life if you enjoyed spending most of your time in the ocean swimming , fishing and surfing, but I am not sure how they are going to put plywood on their tent entrances in preparation for Hurricane Lane.