Less than a month to go


Been a while since that last update.  I’ll get on it.

Typing has been problematic.  I’ve got a nerve issue with my right arm, with pain and numbness shooting the length of my arm into the shoulder.  Makes for miserable sleeping and waking. Starting to get a handle on it, and there’s a bit to write about since the last update.

Nothing really interesting until we leave.   However, scattered throughout my blogs are travel tips from a former professional.  Airline employee and travel agent.  May be boring, but if I can save someone somewhere some money, it’s worth it to me.

Working the way geographically…

I was checking google flights on Halloween to see if there was a better routing for the return flight.  When I originally booked, the return was Melbourne, Los Angeles, San Francsico, Pasco (WA).  This was a nice routing as we would arrive in Pasco at around 2:30pm.  It’s still a 3 hour drive home, but at least we would get in at a civil hour of the day.

August comes and…Ulp, airline schedule change.  The early afternoon flight from San Fransisco to Pasco was moved earlier, making us miss that flight.  So,  United conveniently booked us via Denver, arriving in Pasco at about 10pm!  That sucks.  We would have had to get a motel room, as I didn’t feel comfortable driving that late at night after 30 hours of plane/terminal time.  Plus, Denver can be a real turd weather wise in the winter.

Halloween night.  Time to start tying up loose ends as it’s a month to go and…United had reinstated that afternoon flight to Pasco!  Ah HAH!  I called their reservations immediately to whine about my lot in life.  Lucky for me, a very sympathetic reservations agent named Mary took my call.  After an explanation, she looked at my reservations and indeed confirmed I’d gotten a raw deal.

We exchanged friendly banter back and forth.  I do this on purpose.  One, it breaks that agents monotony in the reservation office.  Two, I become a person rather that a client.  Three, being nice opens doors.  Nothing puts off an airline employee quicker than an “irate”.

She went off the line twice (to talk to the supervisor) and came back on the last time with good news.  Flights back to the original plan at no charge. (This is a standard procedure, but you HAVE to ask for it.  The airline is not obligated or legally responsible to contact you in this situation.)

I casually mentioned I might be interested in upgrading to premium economy seating.  Premium economy has more leg room and better seats with more recline.  As Praxy and I are short, I wasn’t too worried about the upgrade.  But hey, why not ask?  I cautiously inquired about pricing.

Mary quickly overrode me, telling me that the upgrade would be free. ” Ok”, I asked.  “What (flight) segments?”  “Oh, Melbourne to Los Angeles”, she airily replied.  Fine with me!  Then continuing on?  Yep.  Los Angeles to San Francisco, then San Francisco to Pasco.  “Er…how about from Los Angeles TO Melbourne?” I asked VERY cautiously, holding my breath.  “I’ll do that right away for you!”

SWEET!!  $1,000 worth of upgrades, no charge.  This was easy to accomplish and justify.  I was one of the first people to book and pay for those flights, and upgrades can be based on purchase date.  We’d been negatively displaced by a schedule change through no fault of our own.   Also, they can sell our old seats at a higher rate.  The new passengers think they are getting a “deal” as the LAX-MEL flight was truly sold out in regular economy.  (I already knew that before the call, you can check online if you have a reservation on that particular flight.  I was going to use that tidbit as a bargaining chip.)  I didn’t push my luck from Pasco to Los Angeles on the outbound.  At this point, I don’t care.

So, that covers to Melbourne.  Two nights in Melbourne needed to be booked.  No way we wanted to go on the Adelaide after 22 hours in terminals and tubes.  The Southern Cross motel in downtown Melbourne fit the bill.  Two nights, near the river, near the zoo, near Southern Cross station.  Expensive, but a comfortable motel.  We’ll need it.

While in Melbourne, we’ll get a phone simm.  I purchased a cheap, unlocked, smart-phone for international travel last week.  This phone will work in both Australia and the Philippines.  A smart-phone seemed wise as you can get a GPS app.  A month of service with 2 gigs of data runs around $60 or so.  No problem.  Worth it.

Southern Cross Station is a 5 minute walk.  We have two train tickets to Adelaide for Saturday morning December 3.  Advice on Trip Advisor said to fly, but both of us wanted to take the train.  Praxy, because she has never rode a train.  Both of us, because we want to see the countryside.  This will be a rather boring 11 hour trip across miles and miles of farmland.  No problem, again.  Praxy part owns a farm and we want to see Australian cropland and farming practices.  Neither of us will be in a hurry, and when you fly you miss the land underneath.

Once we arrive in Adelaide, the future turns into black box.  Our train passes right through our final destination, Mount Barker, but there is no scheduled stop.  It should work out that our friends can pick us up after they get off work.   If not, we’ll figure out something.

The first few days in Adelaide will be for us to get our bearings.  We are still considering renting a car or camper van.  Also have to figure out the upcoming trip to Kangaroo Island.

Back at home, I lined out our Australia visas.  Good for a year, we are allowed a three month stay with multiple entries.  A very generous visa for the price, around $15.00 USD.  I also messed up and got my birthday wrong on my first visa request.  After guessing a bit,  I found my incorrect birthdate.  Nothing to do about that but resubmit and pay the fee again.  At least they accepted the corrected visa with no questions.

This is an important note to readers.  BE SURE TO FOLLOW THROUGH ON EVERY THING YOU PURCHASE OR RESERVE WHILE TRAVELING.  This would not have turned out well at LAX.  Checking in with an invalid visa.  Very best I could hope for was a delay.  I easily could have been denied boarding and lost my trip to Australia.  No excuses work in these situations.  Customs and Immigration can get snotty about errors, even innocent ones.

Also have to get our credit cards ready.   Warning–Call each and every card company that you plan to use and get that card authorized for the country you are visiting!– I found out after a purchase that the Costco Citibank card has a foreign exchange fee and it’s a hefty fee.  Won’t be using that one as Capital One still does not charge for that.  Capital One DOES have an outrageous cash advance fee, so we’ll be using a debit card for cash.  I’m planning to charge most items and deal with paying when I get home.

Still have to search through my stuff and find the Aus-USA electrical adapter.  The only things we’re taking that need electrical power are cameras and computers.  All of those (thankfully) have 100-240 volt transformers.  Gotta get on this.  Might have to get one on line.  I’m sure it could be purchased at the LAX airport terminal at twice the price.  Yep, bought two on line.  Should receive them on 11/7.  

Australia’s electrical grid is 240 volts, 50 cycles vs. our 120 volts 60 cycles.   Check your electrical stuff before leaving the US.  Otherwise, you might turn something into a crispy critter.  Most newer electronics, computers, cell phones, tablets, etc. are fine.

Uh oh.  Gotta find my travel pillow too.

This morning, 11/4, I’ve exchanged emails with a possibly new friend in Melbourne.  He is a “travel expert” from the Tripadvisor forums and enjoys touring Eastern Samar and other far flung destinations in the Philippines.  Of all the people on that forum, he’s the only one that seems to be interested enough to request information from Guiuan and the surrounding area.

We had been exchanging TA messages and moved to emails as that is more convenient.  We will all be in Melbourne about the same time so Praxy and I are hoping to meet up with him.  I noticed he was in the USA this past summer, so he gets around.

That’s all I can think of for now.  Unless something comes up, next post will probably be from Los Angeles.

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Post Numero Uno,Outbound


10 days before we depart, this will most likely be uploaded in either Los Angeles or Melbourne.

I now seem to have a handle on my arm problem.  It’s not arm, it’s neck!  That nasty crick I’ve had since I was a toddler is the culprit.

I can clearly remember a traumatic episode in the first grade in Kingman, AZ.  Walking down the hall from the restroom to Mrs. Page’s class with my head indicating a left turn.  Sharp pains and teachers asking me what was wrong.  After some meditation, I recalled that this wasn’t the first instance.  My chiropractor got the crick out about 10 years ago, but the damage was done.  Should have seen a chiropractor when I was in grade school.

Oh well.  I’m learning how to live with it and being careful.  Some lifestyle changes are coming up.  The changes were coming up anyway.  After all, I’m almost 62 Years old!

I already did some testing and found I can sit in an enclosed area just fine with my little inflatable travel pillow.  The doctor has cleared me for all activities including this vacation.  My limitations are going to be found and set by me.  Seeing a specialist in January.

Enough of this.  This is a travel blog; not appropriate for whining about my health.

Cat sitter, check.  Credit card authorizations, check.  Packing, check. Work, almost check; four more days.  Perishable in refrigerator, working on it.  Transportation and driver to Pasco, Washington for the flight, check.  ETA (Electronic Travel Authority) for Australia, check, nope uncheck.  Whoops.

I put my birth date incorrectly on the first one, then had to do another ETA for the correction and pay another $15 bucks.  According to their website this is acceptable.  But, I had someone from their support contacting me saying the two ETAs had to be combined.  So, I’m trying to do that even though I don’t think it’s necessary.  I’m sure there is a procedure for corrections as many people make bonehead errors.  Mine was a good one, but I figured out what I’d done wrong in a few days.

I’ve been making a gradually increasing number of stupid errors like this over the last year or so as my mind is starting to slip.  Been expecting it for years, but the actual experience is rather unsettling.  A sign of aging.  At least I followed through and caught my error.  This could have been disastrous in Los Angeles at boarding time.

We both had to do a little repacking.  The weather is rather chilly in southern Australia this time of year.  Very similar to the weather here in eastern Washington in the spring.  So, out went some shorts and T-shirts and in went some long sleeved shirts and pants for both of us.  We can always purchase clothing there in Australia and I wouldn’t mind souvenirs anyway.

Our host has planned to pick us up at the train station there in Adelaide.  Of course.  But we’ve got a huge bonus.  After we’re picked up, we’re heading to some sort of Christmas party!  I don’t know if it is through her job or a Philippine get-together.  Either way, it doesn’t matter.  One of my favorite things about travel is meeting new people in their home environment.

11/19/2016 11:05am

We left home at 8:00am on our first leg to Australia.  After picking up Scott in Pomeroy, we drove to Pasco via Starbuck and Lyons Ferry.  Neither Praxy or Scott had been on the route I chose, via Starbuck and Eureka Washington.  I got turned around a couple of times as it’s been several years since I took the back road through Clyde.  No problem, fixed the route quickly.  Scott is going back that way as I pointed out a back road he’d never known about.  That knowledge will come in handy at the end of January.  He’s going to divert from the main road and go exploring, road conditions permitting.

Had a great lunch in Pasco at a Taco eatery, Junior’s Tacos on Court street.  When in Pasco, eat Mexican.  Lots of excellent restaurants at very reasonable prices.  I chose the one that had the most cars (and Policemen) in attendance.  There were four cop cars and about 8 policeman munching down on the homemade goodies.  Yummy!

An uneventful flight from Pasco to SFO.  Good weather, I enjoyed the land passing under us.

Here in San Francisco, no big deal.  Just waiting around for our flight.  Praxy and I have both gone for a walk to stretch our legs.  Neither of us are really looking forward to the 15 hour plus flight coming up from Los Angeles to Melbourne.

I like this airport.  Normally I don’t have much good to say about California, but this place is all right.  Plenty of room, restaurants, and gates.  It wasn’t a bad walk from gate to gate.  A lot of times I seem to end up with the 7-10 airport split.  Smaller airports are fine but…Done that twice in Minneapolis and twice in Hong Kong.   Hong Kong was amazing.  45 minutes of fast walking with with 5 minutes to shop for a souvenir.  The only reason we weren’t the last ones on the jet was that the people in front of us had misplaced their boarding passes.

You’d think that the same airline would have gates closer together.  Not always.

Time to get ready to go.  Another update in LAX

11/29/16  5:55pm

 

 

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On the Overland


This post is out of order.  Internet has been problematic.  I downloaded the start of my first blog (covering the trip from the USA to AUS) from wordpress and will finish it locally and upload later.  I’ll start on Melbourne this afternoon (12/5). 

We are heading to Kangaroo island on Wednesday for 5 nights!  Alicia was able to score us a two bedroom house, fully equipped.  A day and half to prepare.  So much fun and things to do, so little time write.  Oh darn.

First thing you have to do is find Southern Cross Station in Melbourne.  That is really NO PROBLEM.  Or as the Aussies say, No worries.  In Europe, all roads lead to Rome, so they say.  In Melbourne, all roads, trams, and busses lead to Southern Cross station.

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This area is incredibly busy on weekdays and even more so at rush hour.  Public transportation in Melbourne is fantastic.  Very few people drive to work.  And why would you want to.  It’s $15 per day to park your car in a garage downtown.  That $15 will buy a lot of tram tickets.

Once you find the platform 2, you’re there.  Unless you have luggage.  Bring it here.

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It’s just to your right and ahead.  Check your luggage and return here.

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And the train awaits.IMG_3162

Tuesday and Saturday morning departures at 8:00 am.  Which car?  Ours was “R”.  A conductor will check you in and allow you to board.

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Not very busy today, maybe 30 passengers or so.

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Onboard is very comfortable.  Much more room than on a jet.  The cabin is narrow, but there is plenty of room between seats.

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And we settled down for the ride.  There really isn’t much to see for the first hour or so.  The train winds through the business district of Melbourne and tidiness and esthetics are definitely not the first priority.  After all of that mess, you run into the countryside.  Miles and miles and miles and miles of wheat, oats, barley, beans, canola, hay, and sheep.  4 hours worth.

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The country is about as flat as you can imagine.  Perhaps 300 miles of farm land.  Hardy any watercourses.  Water is brought to the surface by windmills and pumps.  I ate lunch on board.  Fish and chips.  Not too bad really, this is most of the way through the meal.

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Here is an odd little thing I’d never seen before.  A ketchup dispenser.  See the little ridge on top?  That is where the ketchup comes out.  I tried peeling the lid as we do in the US .  A little pressure and?…Ketchup shoots strait out and up!  I had to wipe my face and nose off.  I realized at that point you turn it over and squeeze.  Presto, ketchup goes easily on to your chips.  It’s actually a better system than trying to fumble with those peel-offs.

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Murray bridge.   The first bridge built across this river in about 1906 or something like that.  I covered car, horses, and rail for many years.  It was so popular that the new railroad bridge that we are using was built in 1923.

The remainder of the trip wound through the Adelaide Hills area in dense forest.  Pictures were difficult to take.  Trees in the foreground blur and spoil the shots.

12/5/2016  11:30am

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Numero Uno, Outbound


10 days before we depart, this will most likely be uploaded in either Los Angeles or Melbourne.

I now seem to have a handle on my arm problem.  It’s not arm, it’s neck!  That nasty crick I’ve had since I was a toddler is the culprit.

I can clearly remember a traumatic episode in the first grade in Kingman, AZ.  Walking down the hall from the restroom to Mrs. Page’s class with my head indicating a left turn.  Sharp pains and teachers asking me what was wrong.  After some meditation, I recalled that this wasn’t the first instance.  My chiropractor got the crick out about 10 years ago, but the damage was done.  Should have seen a chiropractor when I was in grade school.

Oh well.  I’m learning how to live with it and being careful.  Some lifestyle changes are coming up.  The changes were coming up anyway.  After all, I’m almost 62 Years old!

I already did some testing and found I can sit in an enclosed area just fine with my little inflatable travel pillow.  The doctor has cleared me for all activities including this vacation.  My limitations are going to be found and set by me.  Seeing a specialist in January.

Enough of this.  This is a travel blog; not appropriate for whining about my health.

Cat sitter, check.  Credit card authorizations, check.  Packing, check. Work, almost check; four more days.  Perishable in refrigerator, working on it.  Transportation and driver to Pasco, Washington for the flight, check.  ETA (Electronic Travel Authority) for Australia, check, nope uncheck.  Whoops.

I put my birth date incorrectly on the first one, then had to do another ETA for the correction and pay another $15 bucks.  According to their website this is acceptable.  But, I had someone from their support contacting me saying the two ETAs had to be combined.  So, I’m trying to do that even though I don’t think it’s necessary.  I’m sure there is a procedure for corrections as many people make bonehead errors.  Mine was a good one, but I figured out what I’d done wrong in a few days.

I’ve been making a gradually increasing number of stupid errors like this over the last year or so as my mind is starting to slip.  Been expecting it for years, but the actual experience is rather unsettling.  A sign of aging.  At least I followed through and caught my error.  This could have been disastrous in Los Angeles at boarding time.

We both had to do a little repacking.  The weather is rather chilly in southern Australia this time of year.  Very similar to the weather here in eastern Washington in the spring.  So, out went some shorts and T-shirts and in went some long sleeved shirts and pants for both of us.  We can always purchase clothing there in Australia and I wouldn’t mind souvenirs anyway.

Our host has planned to pick us up at the train station there in Adelaide.  Of course.  But we’ve got a huge bonus.  After we’re picked up, we’re heading to some sort of Christmas party!  I don’t know if it is through her job or a Philippine get-together.  Either way, it doesn’t matter.  One of my favorite things about travel is meeting new people in their home environment.

11/19/2016 11:05am

We left home at 8:00am on our first leg to Australia.  After picking up Scott in Pomeroy, we drove to Pasco via Starbuck and Lyons Ferry.  Neither Praxy or Scott had been on the route I chose, via Starbuck and Eureka Washington.  I got turned around a couple of times as it’s been several years since I took the back road through Clyde.  No problem, fixed the route quickly.  Scott is going back that way as I pointed out a back road he’d never known about.  That knowledge will come in handy at the end of January.  He’s going to divert from the main road and go exploring, road conditions permitting.

Had a great lunch in Pasco at a Taco eatery, Junior’s Tacos on Court street.  When in Pasco, eat Mexican.  Lots of excellent restaurants at very reasonable prices.  I chose the one that had the most cars (and Policemen) in attendance.  There were four cop cars and about 8 policeman munching down on the homemade goodies.  Yummy!

An uneventful flight from Pasco to SFO.  Good weather, I enjoyed the land passing under us.

Here in San Francisco, no big deal.  Just waiting around for our flight.  Praxy and I have both gone for a walk to stretch our legs.  Neither of us are really looking forward to the 15 hour plus flight coming up from Los Angeles to Melbourne.

I like this airport.  Normally I don’t have much good to say about California, but this place is all right.  Plenty of room, restaurants, and gates.  It wasn’t a bad walk from gate to gate.  A lot of times I seem to end up with the 7-10 airport split.  Smaller airports are fine but…Done that twice in Minneapolis and twice in Hong Kong.   Hong Kong was amazing.  45 minutes of fast walking with with 5 minutes to shop for a souvenir.  The only reason we weren’t the last ones on the jet was that the people in front of us had misplaced their boarding passes.

You’d think that the same airline would have gates closer together.  Not always.

Time to get ready to go.  Another update in LAX

11/29/16  5:55pm

A week later in Adelaide.  I’m so far behind it is pitiful.  Having to delve into memory and photos to remind myself of what has happened.

The flight from San Francisco to Los Angeles was uneventful to say the least.  Maybe 40 passengers on a Boeing 737-800, so less than a quarter of the seats had butts in them.  This allowed me to talk to the flight crew a bit.  A friendly young flight attendant was on board for the first leg of his shift.  Next leg was to Cancun with a 23 hour layover.  He was really looking forward to it as this was his first time to Cancun.  I couldn’t fault him for that!

Into LAX and a 30 minute walk from terminal 8 to terminal 7.   We ate dinner, I had a Burger King Whopper with onion rings and a beer.   Unfortunately.   I got a terrible case of the farts, and stinky ones that lasted long into the flight.  Embarrassing to say the very least.  Mental note to self.  No more beer and onion rings in the same meal!

No one complained, but I was sure miserable and dejected.

On to our 787 at 9:50pm.  Beautiful new aircraft.  Comfy seats.  For a change.  This was going to be my view for the next 16 hours.

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Premium Economy seating over the wing.  Not much to see outside, no worries.  The flight was mostly at night.  5 extra inches of leg room.  No big deal, right?  Actually, it is very nice.  You can pull your carryon out from under the seat in front of you, bend over, and be able to reach into it.  No way in regular economy.

Impressive aircraft on takeoff.  With all the people, fuel, and cargo, the jet simply leapt into the air with plenty of runway to spare.  I’ve never seen anything like it.

The entertainment system was superb!  Plenty of movies, music, games, and other options.  I wrote for a while, and two hours into the flight dinner arrived.  And with it…

Turbulence.  Lots of it.  At 33,000 feet.  I would rate it just above mild turbulence, but, we were in the middle of meal service.  The pilot finally had to set the flight attendants down and most people had not gotten served.  Drinks got to us in time and I ordered water only.  If it got knocked off my tray into my lap, at least it wouldn’t be sticky!  The pilots desperately tried to find smooth air.   Couldn’t go higher as the jet was still too heavy.  We finally they found a passable area at 30,000 after a diversion a few hundred miles west.   I’m sure they radioed back to Quatas and United jets behind us about the predicament.   

The remaining dinners were served, then I settled down for about 4 hours of sleep.  Listened to music and watched movies.  The time passed reasonably quickly.

7am local time the next morning, we were over Australia.  Looking out the window at 40,000 feet, I became somewhat emotional.  Visiting Aussie has been a dream of mine for over 50 years, and here I was actually seeing then place for the first time.  I was thrilled!  Another bucket list item was being fulfilled.

After almost 15 hours in the air, we finally were in Melbourne. 

Walking to customs, I ran into one of the first officers.  (The trans Pacific flights have one captain and 3 first officers.  Crews can work no more than a 10 hour shift.  Flight attendants as well.)  We chatted.  He apologized for the bumpy start and said it was the roughest he’d ever experienced on the LAX-MEL run.  Even over the equator where the tropical convergence zone exists.   I smiled and replied that I’d experienced much worse on Cascade Airways, no problems for me.  I’d guarded my dinner carefully and he laughed about that.   Other passengers overheard the exchange and some said that it terrified them.  IT WASN’T THAT BAD.  REALLY.

So I asked him a question about something that had me very curious.  Just how much fuel does a 787 burn on such a trip?

We left LAX with 190,000 lbs. of Jet-A.  That’s about 28,400 gallons at 6.7 lbs./gallon, depending on the temperature of the fuel (Trivia from my Cascade Airways days).   We arrived in Melbourne with 15,000 lbs. remaining on board, 2,240 gallons.  That was enough fuel for another 2 hours of flight.  He said that was quite low, the diversion to 30,000 feet had cost a lot of Jet-A.  So, we burned 26,000 gallons of fuel.

Wow.

Customs was a breeze.  We have the chipped passports and got through in 10 minutes.  It took longer than that to find a cab.

$40 USD to the Great Southern Motel in downtown Melbourne.   Checked in.  Not tired.  What to do?

How about the nearby Melbourne aquarium?  OK.  Off we walked.  Expensive but more than worth the $$.

The overlook at the aquarium had a wonderful view.  I jokingly turned a shot upside down for Facebook to tease my friends about having to turn my camera over once south of the equator.  After all, it was an “American camera”.

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This is much better…

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Some of the highlights of the aquarium.

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A moray eel.

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This gargantuan grouper had to weigh 400lbs.

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Sharks.

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A smiley faced ray.

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Penguin display.  King penguins.

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Me getting a fish eye view.

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Sea dragons.  Two hours to go through everything.  Very nice.

I finally got my phone working so I called Edmund to let him know my phone number.  He offered to come and get us and give us a quick tour going to his house.  If we weren’t too tired.  I asked Praxy.  Nope, not too tired.  Off we went on the tram.

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Left to right; Melody, Edmund, myself, and Praxy at their sweet little house in Melbourne.  He is a travel expert on Tripadvisor.com for the Philippines.  We met online as both of us share a penchant for travel to far flung areas.  Difficult to reach areas.  Areas that normal tourists shun.  Areas like Eastern Samar, Philippines.  We’ve hit it off and I’m hoping he’ll come visit us in the US some day (after I retire).   Melody is from Manila, the two ladies hit it off as well.

I tried to get some pictures from the tram, but they didn’t turn out.  A combination of movement and poor lighting. 

We both slept 11 hours that night.

12/6/2016  1:45 pm

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Day two, bumming around Melbourne


Next day, we were out and about looking around.  A late start as we both slept in until 10am.

Breakfast was going to be lunch.  A nearby food court provided an answer.  I decided to try Sri Lankan.

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Rice with saffron, eggplant, chicken, and carrots.  All spicy enough to make a person sweat profusely.  It tasted fabulous.

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A humble little restaurant with unique, tasty food.  Next time I’m here I’m going for the Nepalese cuisine.

Plenty to see downtown and there is a free tram zone there.  The City Circle tram outlines the free area and we took advantage of the situation by visiting the Queen Victoria market.

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Full of touristy stuff, I bought a Tshirt.  Much of the inventory was made in China.  No thanks.  The fruit and vegetable market was amazing.  Praxy picked up dinner for herself, a mango and avocado.   My plans were different, a Lebanese Kebab from a busy little stand near the motel.

We decided to get off the tram at a little park commemorating two people that worked hard for rights for the aborigines in Australia.

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No internet, so I don’t have their names.  If I remember, I’ll update.  Nearby was a fancy looking Catholic church.  St. Peters I believe (again internet)

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We just had to go in and have a look.  What I saw will stay with me the rest of my life.  Simply stated, it was the most beautiful building I’ve ever seen.  Here’s a bit of a tour.

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I’d love to hear this magnificent pipe organ play.  No fair taking pictures of the organ, just the pipes.  Bummer.  The light might have been hard on the wood finish.

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A list of priests from the mid 1800ds.

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Pictures don’t do justice.  This is a must see if you ever visit Melbourne.

We returned to the motel for dinner.  I grabbed a Guiness beer and took off for the Kebab shop.  There was a dozen people waiting in line.  That means two things.  It’s the only restaurant in the area or the food is fabulous.  This turned out to be the latter.  It was all I could do to eat all of it and the taste was amazing.  I’ll be back!

That is about it for the first visit to Melbourne.  We are returning on Jan 6th.  Edmund offered to give us his own personal tour of the Great Ocean Road if everything works out.  There is also the zoo and many other things to see.  We will have three days to give it another whirl.

If Edmund is busy, we’ll book our own tour.  Not to worry.

12/6/2016  2pm

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After the rail journey


I’m going to be forced to learn how to drive here because…Kangaroo Island is back on!

Our original booking fell through due to an illness.  It was a horrible disappointment to me, but the owners were worse off.  The wife had a sick mother.  And family is very important.  I understand.  We’re on holiday, we’ll adapt.  And we aren’t sick.

Alicia asked around and found another place available.  A friend had a two bedroom holiday house available.  We snatched it up immediately.

Off to organize at Sealink Ferry Service in Adelaide.  Bad news.  No rental cars available on KI.  Except for an SUV.  1 lousy SUV, for an astounding $880 for four days.  NO WAY.  I’d walk before paying that.   Seems that there are numerous cruise ships there this time of year and the passengers are slapping up cars as quick as the cars come available.  Sigh.

But, by renting a car here in downtown Adelaide, we could drive there and back, ferry crossing, unlimited miles, everything for $800 for six days.  That we could live with.

The price of the house rental more than makes up for it.  The price is unreasonably low and I refuse to take advantage of the owners.  It’s not WHAT you know, it’s WHO you know.  Some how I have to make this right.

We went shopping this morning for food.  Everything on KI is crazy expensive as it all has to be ferried in.  Food, booze, fuel, restaurants, motels, B & B’s, tours, you name it.  Stores can some times sell completely out if there is a rush of people.  So we’ve bought 6 days worth of food here in Mount Barker and will be hauling it in by car.  The house has everything else, cooking and utensils, bedding, all that a person needs.  The island has scenery, wildlife, roads, beaches, quiet.  Well, the quiet will be interrupted by the hordes of passengers off of the cruise ships.  At least they will only be there from about 8am to 4pm.

I wonder if Holland America will be represented.  One of their ships was purchased by an Australian interest and plies these waters under a different name.  I’ll recognize it immediately as the old Ryndam.  Repainted of course.

Traffic is hectic in Adelaide and I’m getting lost easily.  Fortunately Alicia and Graeme have worked out getting the rig out here to Mount Barker.  I can handle it from here.  We will leave here at 3:15pm and pick up the rig.  Graeme drives it here, and I practice a bit on the back roads around this area.  No problem.  Getting to the ferry port is easy as Mount Barker is a third of the way distance between the two.

I should mention that Mount Barker is what Americans call a “bedroom community”.   The houses out here are fancy to say the very least.  Our subdivision is occupied by numerous professionals escaping the city for the evening.  We are surrounded by lawyers, doctors, and business people.  Alicia is a nursing supervisor at a major hospital in Adelaide.   I’m a rather scruffy Fish (eries Researcher) out of water around here.   I try hard not to look like what I truly am, a countrified hick from Washington state.

12/6/2016 8:30pm

On Kangaroo Island.  It’s been rather an adventure to get here.  Plus it’s rather surreal.  I simply can’t believe that I am sitting in a large, grand, holiday house in Australia.  I expect at any time to wake up back in the good ole US of A.   But the noisy parrots outside remind me.  And I pinch myself now and then.

We picked up the car at 4pm.  Graeme drove it to the freeway, then he handed it over to me.  Crap.  Well, I had to start somewhere.

High speed on the freeway.  My forearms got pumped up I was gripping the steering wheel so hard.  Hold it on 110 (70 mph) and gut it out.

It’s very disorienting to drive on the left side of the road if all you’ve ever known is right side.  I’ve disciplined myself to aim my side of the car at the center of the road.  It seems to be working.  But at first it was very confusing.  Roundabouts are the worst.  Because you go through them clockwise.  Scary at first as the traffic patterns and yield patterns are reversed.  I made one serious error, but fortunately no one else was in the intersection.

After dinner I took the car out and wandered around the quiet subdivision.  That helped a lot and after perhaps 20 miles of side streets, I felt comfortable enough to take the stab at Kangaroo Island the next morning.

The GPS on the phone works well enough but the lingo was confusing.  “At the next roundabout, go strait ahead”.  Yeah, right.  Strait ahead is strait ahead, but this meant take the first left.  We wound around downtown Mount Barker for an extra 10 minutes as I struggled to understand the instructions.  Lucky for me, the traffic was light and I was determined.  After a half a dozen sashays off into the side streets, we were on our way southwest.

Of course no photos.   I was too busy gripping the seat with my butt cheeks to reach for the camera.  About 20 miles out, I managed to smack a white cockatoo looking thing with pink feathers on it’s neck at about 50mph.  It was on it’s final Kamikaze run.  Oops!  Just like the commute to the dam at home.   It didn’t fare any better than the ring necked pheasants I’m so familiar with.

I wasn’t trying to do that at all.  Luckily no damage to the front of the car, just a polished spot thanks to the wings.  About 3/4 of the way there, I called a halt.  We went into a supermarket and I rewarded myself with a coke.  Stopped again at the outskirts of Port Jervis to top the fuel off.  Then, on to the ferry terminal.

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The little Toyota at the front of the line is our rental.  Nimble, small, and powerful, it’s a perfect car for a beginner.  Very forgiving.  We arrived about 2 hours early.  We wanted plenty of time to make up for any……errrr….diversions caused by the GPS or my ignorance.

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But here we are tucked on the ferry.  Just behind the red Jeep.  Damn tight quarters.  Praxy could not have gotten out if she was allowed to board the ferry in the car.  She was required to walk on.  The truck is a double trailered sheep hauler that carries sheep four tiers high.  Dunno how many sheep per load, but it’s a pile of them.  Perhaps a couple hundred.  Very very stinky, this truck was going back empty to get another load from the island.  And a guy brought in a hay rake and baler.  The rake with trailer is on the far side of the truck.   One car with a trailer got left behind.   Glad it wasn’t us!

45 minutes from the mainland to KI.  Off the boat, pick up the wife on the side of the street, and off to our accommodations.  We got a little lost, but no big deal.  Finally found it with the help of the owners.

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Overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

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Inside…pardon our clutter.  We’re planning our day trips.  Four of them.

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There is a washroom and a nice deck that goes 3/4s of the way around.   No food, you have to bring your own.  No problem, we brought our own food.  Lots of it.   A second bedroom that sleeps 4.  Our luggage is in there.

Tonight, rotisserie chicken from Coles Grocery, fried potatoes, salad.  Guinness beer and Jack Daniels for me.  Yep.  Jack Daniels whiskey.  About the same price as in the states.  I couldn’t resist, no shame here.  It goes down smooth with the view of the Pacific Ocean.  Tomorrow night?  Grilled kangaroo tenderloin with grilled potatoes, grilled cauliflower, and more salad.   Yes, kangaroo steaks.  How can you not try it?  Unless you are a roo hugger or squeamish.  And NO, it isn’t from a road kill.  Farmed.  I jokingly told the butcher that I hoped the steaks were NOT from the hoppy part of the animal.  He grinned and assured me we had the best cuts.

No koala meat planned.  I think they’d taste like a cough drop.  Cuji (I think that is how it’s spelled, you can get it in Ecuador) would certainly be better.  Haha to those of you that look that one up!  And yes, if I’m ever there, I’ll try it.

We haven’t seen a koala yet.  At least a live one.  They roadkill quite frequently.  They aren’t the speediest of automobile avoiders.  Not to worry, though.  There are tons of them around and in many places they are a destructive nuisance.  Alicia gets them on her deck every once in a while.

We went for a walk on the nearby beach…

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The sand is pure white and soft as silk.  Hard to walk on.  You sink in.  On the way back we came across a goanna or monitor lizard, don’t know which one it was.  It was shy and hauled ass into it’s burrow before I could get a picture.  Ungrateful little wretch. 

Time to end this post with a picture of my lovely little wife on the ferry.

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approaching Penneshaw.

Oh, and a slightly bigger boat…

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They only get one day here.  We’ve got four!  This is the reason we had to rent a car in Adelaide.  I should thank them.

12/7/2016  8:00pm on Kangaroo Island

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Kangaroo (KI) Island, hopping around, Day 1


Sitting here trying to write after day 2.  Long day today.  Dinner, Guinness, JD, and tired equals…I’ll see how long I can go.

Up at 6:30am, off at 8am.  Hard to get motivated real early on vacation.  But there is a lot to see and little time to see it.

We left our little bungalow

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to find some “touristy” adventure.  We ended up at Stokes Bay Bush Garden.  Two people have spent thirty years gathering plants native to Kangaroo Island and put them on display.  Praxy was in heaven, I was intensely interested.

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The orange cone looking thingies truly have a real purpose.  Called bottle brush, those spines protect the seed from fire.

In goes the SD card from Praxy’s camera.  What did she like?

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The plants here on KI are totally foreign to us.  Mostly small leaved and spiny to conserve moisture and keep herbivores at bay.  All plants were number with a key to the Latin scientific names.  Some had local names, of course. 

It was fun walking through the garden, which probably was about 4 acres.  We really only saw one thing that was familiar.  Praxy spotted a citrus tree, and “by gollies” it turned out to be common limes.  We grabbed one as a tasty souvenir, I hope the owners don’t read this and catch us.  It went on our salads.  We spent almost two hours wandering around looking at plants, bushes, trees, and assorted birds.

Worth a stop if you are into greenery.  Not worth it otherwise.  Both of us loved it.

Just down the road and hill was Stokes Bay.  Since it was close, we took off for a look.

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Beautiful to look at, but too windy and cold that morning.

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A nice little walk to a nearby beach through the rocks and caves ended at crossing with about 6 inches of water in it.  Neither of us wanted to get our feet wet.

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So we moved on.  Back to the car.  And the rain showers commenced.  Nothing to do but hunker down and drive to our next destination, KI Wildlife Park.  And hope the rain would go away.

With admission goes a little bag of “roo” feed for the wallabies and kangaroos.  This was a lot of fun!  Wallabies here

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These are the most unassuming creatures.  Very polite.  They watch you walk into the enclosure and they don’t even move.  When you chose your wallaby and walk up to it, it comes alert and walks over to you for it’s handout.  They carefully nibble the kibble off or your hand and you don’t get bit or bothered.  I shot an extra photo of the albino wallaby as she was the only animal with a visible joey.  Much as I wanted to, I didn’t try to touch the joey.  Didn’t know how mom would react.  Otherwise you could pet them and touch them, no problem.

I’ve been to deer parks and fed white tail deer.  They can get most obnoxious.  Wallabies and kangaroos, at least these, had perfect manners.

Here’s some kangaroos…

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Kangaroos are supposedly bigger, but these weren’t large at all.  Again, perfect ladies and gentlemen.  Those teeth are sharp and strong, but the animals are careful.

A few more highlights…

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Dingos with their handler.  They are friendly enough, but can get standoffish.  They don’t share our pet dog’s desire to please.  So they do what they want.

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A kookaburra.  I haven’t seen one “sitting in the old gum tree”, but I got a nice photo.  Now want to hear one laugh.

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Colorful parrots.  There are parrots everywhere around here.  Thousands of them.  Noisy buggers.

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1pm came around and it was time for the koala encounter.  We were allowed into the cage to pet and meet these inoffensive, charming little creatures.   This one was named Misty. 

But many of my readers know me.  I can’t resist an opportunity.  A chance to hold one.  I plopped down the additional $20AUD for this.

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Like “kissing a dolphin”, this is a one chance in a lifetime experience.  This little female was named Chloe, she was the nicest little thing you can imagine.  Perfectly happy to munch the eucalyptus leaves as we shot picture after picture.

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I guess those leaves taste pretty good!

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Group picture.  Chloe was abandoned by her mother and a young lady named Lee raised her.  Chloe is as tame as a house pet.  Only thing she was concerned about was the chow.  Those leaves were a favorite and I had to make sure she could continue to eat without interruption.  Constantly had to spin that little sprig.  Great fun!

After this, Lee pulled a little wagon around the park feeding the various animals.  It was a blast for me.  They all woke up and paid attention, so we got good looks at them.

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Very strong, it was all Lee could do to keep it in the cage.  The lower shot is it sleeping.  This was hilarious as it’s teeth were chattering as it dreamed about eating (I guess).

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An albino opossum.  This little guy was old and feeble, probably won’t last much longer.  He was carefully hand fed.

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This is another one of those things that seem to interest me and I get to share with my readers.  Visiting a place you may never see.  An echidna display.  I couldn’t take extra pictures as I was busy.  This echidna wouldn’t eat and was very lethargic.  Lee groused about him having a tick and sure enough, she found one just between and above his eyes.  They are quite prone to ticks and helpless to fend them off.  Makes them sickly and weak.  Lee was most concerned and tried to pull it off.  Good luck, with all those spines.  She wished she had pliers and TADA! I pulled out my handy Leatherman from the states.   Fifteen seconds later the echidna was free of it’s tormentor and happily eating it’s bowl of gruel.  They eat ants and termites, normally.  This was hamburger with raw egg and a little wheat.

Lee loved my Leatherman and is going to get one to carry around the park.  The narrow, spring loaded jaws meant that tick didn’t have a ghost of a chance.

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This is a shingle lizard.  I think.  No internet so I can’t check the name.  They are called “sleepies” in Australia as they are docile and slow.  Cool little animal.

Last was the parrot cage.  Lee had a favorite parrot in there that just loves her.  That parrot just burrowed into her arm and didn’t want Lee to go.  It was touching.  Lee says she may just give up and take the parrot home with her.

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Praxy as a baby koala,  Notice her sucking her thumb!

Not quite done with the blog, but my energy is done…

12/9/2016  8:30pm

Kingscote was our next stop.  The largest “town” on the island.  Houses, a few motels, two gas stations, a couple of banks, a liquor store, and a very nice IGA grocery store.

The IGA logo was the same as the USA, so I’m guessing they have the same parent company.   This store was well stocked with a wide variety of foods.  Much, much more than mere basics.  Prices were higher on most items than they were in Mount Barker.  But a few things were cheaper.  We picked up a few extra items, why not? 

I’m going into this little detail to inform any readers of this humble little blog about visiting a holiday house here on the island.  Tips for the traveler.

Most holiday houses, including ours, are not stocked with any food items other than the total basics.  This one has cleaning supplies, spices, dishes, cooking utensils, bedding, appliances, just about every single thing you need.  Except food.  The owners said that they would have no problem supplying it and will even do some shopping for a fee.  But how can the owners know what the tenants might prefer?  There are people from all over the world on this island, most have rented cars and are traveling around.  Stock your house for an Aussie.  OK , what if the next visitor is Chinese?  Or French?  Or American?  What if the house is empty for several days?

There are two larger local grocery stores.  The larger one is in Kingscote, the smaller one in Penneshaw.  A few smaller stores dot the island that carry odds and ends that are not perishable and a few popular perishable staples.  A nice little fish market in American River provides oysters and fish, in season.  A farmer’s market in Kingscote on Sunday mornings.   Visitors can stock up whenever they like with decent groceries, albeit a bit high priced.

Both stores have a large supply of frozen items to be nuked or thawed.  There are also some delis (at the IGAs as well) with salads, cold cuts, and other quick eats.

Another alternative is eating at local restaurants.  Their prices are high, some places prices are totally outrageous.  OK, for a treat, but don’t do it unless you are very well heeled, cooking challenged, or lazy.

I can cook as well or better myself.  For the most part. 

An alternative is to REALLY stock up in Adelaide and bring the goodies over on the ferry.  This is what we did.  We borrowed a cooler from Graeme and stuffed it with food items.  Brought dry goods over as well.  There was lots of room in our Toyota Corolla hatchback.  Beer, booze, food, snacks, cloths, toiletries, gifts, everything.

Back to the house and time for dinner.  I broke out the kangaroo steaks and fired up the barbie.  Roo tenderloin, grilled new potatoes, and salad.  I have to say the the roo was excellent.  It tastes a lot like white tailed deer only milder.  Tender, flavorful, Praxy broke down and had two extra helpings.  It was that good.

After clean up, I was done.  The stress of driving on the wrong side had taken it’s toll.  In bed at 8:30, Praxy was up until midnight.

12/10/2016  5:50pm

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