Tuesday, March 30, 2010


I also remember walking out every morning and looking at the warehouse across the street. For our entire time there, the wall of that warehouse carried the message, "Menudo Sucks!" Why anyone felt the need to spray paint their feelings about the boy band on that wall is beyond me, even though I had to agree that Menudo did indeed suck.
From the post "Menudo Sucks", August 27, 2009

The news broke today that Ricky Martin has written a letter on his blog acknowledging that he is gay.

In the world of E and Hollywood Tonight and TMZ, this is major news that keeps the celebrity-pulp-news cycle going for another few hours. But it wasn't exactly a bombshell for me because I don't know who Ricky Martin is. In fact I thought he was Julio Inglesias's son and couldn't figure out why his last name was Martin.

In fact, as everyone but me probably knows, Ricky is one of the leading stars of Latin pop music and, so far as I know, has nothing to do with Julio Inglesias or his son.

I read the story about his coming out on Huffington Post, and was really struck by the number of people who commented on it. It seemed as if every other one was saying something to the effect of, "Hey, Ricky, tell us something we didn't already know."

But, perhaps surprisingly to all who have read this post up to this point, today's topis is not really about Ricky Martin at all. No, it is in fact about my darling.

I told her about the people making the comments about his statement and then confessed that I didn't really know who he was.

LK admitted that she didn't know much, either, and had never heard any of his music. Then she added, "But I am pretty sure he started out in Menudo, and I seem to remember he sang the theme song for the soccer World Cup. And if I am not mistaken, I think he's from Puerto Rico."

A quick trip to Wikipedia confirmed that she was right on all three. When I asked her how she could possibly know these things about someone she hasn't even listened to, she just smiled and said, "I don't know, but I'm good, aren't I?"

Which she is, because this sort of thing happens all the time. She will pull from her memory the most trivial facts about the most minor people and have no idea how she knows it. But she will be quite certain her facts are right. And they usually are.

She is especially good with minor celebrities, dead singers and actors from the 40's and early 50's, and royalty. When some actor from the 40's dies at 92, she'll tell me that his third wife ended up marrying some bandleader. When some young spoiled toff in the UK gets caught doing something naughty, she will tell me that their father is seventh in line to the throne if Charles dies before the Queen. I could go on, but you get the idea.

After more than a quarter of century I am not surprised at this phenomenon, but I still do wonder just how it happens. I have an image of a little creature working inside her head whose sole purpose is to file away anything that might astound people ten years later and retrieve it without LK even being conscious that the creature is there.

Her brilliance at pulling trivia bunnies from her magician's hat can even turn her philosophical. She reminded me of that graffiti that had been scrawled on a wall across the street from our first place. The message was simple - "Menudo Sucks".

"We always assumed that was just criticism from someone who hated the group," she mused, "but maybe we were wrong."

Monday, March 29, 2010

Phillip Island

The Nobbies - and no, it's not what you think

Captain's Log. Tour Day 8:

This trip has brought out the best in our team. Chief Navigation Officer Linda has worked closely with young recruit Mandy the GPS and, with the exception of our retreat from Ballarat, there has been little backtracking and almost no major Where the Hell Are We moments.

But even CNO Linda would acknowledge that it is Chief Weather Officer Shirley who has performed the most brilliantly this trip. It has been CWO Shirley's responsibility to ensure we have sun and reasonably warm weather for our tour, and that she has done in spades. There were even days when we left one place under heavy cloud cover only to have blue skies and bright sun by the time we arrived at our next destination.

Her dedication is beyond doubt. I had given her Saturday as a day off since she had done so well. And sure enough, without Shirley working Ballarat was gloomy and cool - which, by the way, was not inappropriate. But no sooner had we decided to go up the road a few miles to Daylesford, and Shirley forgot it was her day off and delivered beautiful skies and a warm afternoon.

She faced another challenge today. It started raining overnight in Phillip Island, and we were facing a real test of her skills as it was still bucketing down around 10. But we had faith, and by noon the sun was breaking through and the temperatures were rising. By the time we had lunch outdoors around 2, I was actually starting to get a bit of a sunburn on that part of my head between my hairline and what used to be my hairline.

With the weather under control, we explored Phillip Island and went to a nature center on the tip of the island.

If North America has the Rockies, South America the Andes and Europe the Alps, we discovered today that Port Phillip has the Nobbies.

Those are the rocks just offshore from the western end of the island. The coolest part of the Nobbies area, though, is a 12-meter deep cave that forms a natural blowhole. The waves weren't big enough to see a massive splashback, but we could see enough to appreciate it.

For some reason Linda and Shirley kept snickering and looking at me whenever the topic of "blowhole" came up, but I am not sure what that was all about.

Best of all, there were lots of nesting penguins around the area. In fact this little guy just stood next to the walkway and looked at us without a care in the world.

I say best of all for two reasons. First, because it's really fun to see penguins up close. But second, because we had planned to drive back for the penguin parade around dusk, which is about two hours after cocktail hour. But we all agreed that we'd seen enough penguins at the Nobbies that there was no need to go back for more.

So, after a hugely successful Margarita Night last evening, we are now a few minutes into Martini Night. And I have enough experience to know with absolute certainty that the second one is going to taste heaps better than the first.

Tomorrow we chart a course for the Mornington Peninsula.

Ccaptains Log Out.

Ballarat Blues

Ballarat, northwest of Melbourne, is known as the birthplace of Australian democracy and one of the country's greatest gold mining towns. Today it seems to be just the pits.

That's probably not fair, since we decided to skip the town's chief tourist attraction, a recreation of a mid-19th Century gold town. It certainly didn't help that we had already driven through the center of the real city which looked like a recreation of a mid-20th Century formerly successful gold town.

Shirley had been to Sovereign Hill, the gold town re-creation, many years before, and neither LK nor I have ever enjoyed seeing people dress up in out-of-date clothes and make believe they are panning for gold or whatever.
And besides, the cost of admission for the three of us would have bought a case of pretty nice sauvignon blanc. We do have our priorities.

We had given the city center a shot, driving through it and planning to get out and have a bit of a wander, but saw nothing that even remotely interested us. As LK noted, whoever wrote their tourist booklet was a master at picking out the one or two things that made the place look interesting. So we turned the car north and headed to Daylesford about half an hour away.

Initially we had debated whether to stay in Ballarat or Daylesford, but I had expressed concern that all the information about Daylesford kept stressing spas and healing and other karmic stuff that I avoid. "It looks pretty airy-fairy to me," I said on our way there. To which LK replied, "I think it is an airy-fairy area."

None of us could say that phrase three times fast.

It turns out that Daylesford was a pleasant way to spend an afternoon. The shops were indeed promising all sorts of things that I thought had become extinct shortly after Woodstock. I did not have much interest in tarot or palmistry or hydromassage but was, however, interested in getting my ears candled for $60, but decided to give it a pass in the end.

After a wander through some shops and galleries, we discovered a fantastic lunch spot - a little cafe in the back garden of a women's clothing shop. A couple of glasses of wine and tasting plates of great Italian-style food - sardines, fried anchovies, white bean salad - and we were very satisfied. By the way, LK had two Peronis and got creative so you see the result in that picture at the top of this post.

Then it was back to the motel in Ballarat. It is an indication of how my lifestyle has changed since I retired that I now have begun to qualify for free upgrades at the Comfort Inn. (Sigh.) Once in the room I had to seriously wonder what the lower-level room would have been like.

But it was spacious and it did have a spa bath (which none of us could be bothered using. Ain't getting old wonderful?) Probably the most interesting thing to happen there was when Linda encountered yet another person in Ballarat dressed in odd clothes.

She had stepped outside the room only to see our neighbor next door standing outside his door having a cigarette. She could not help noticing, though, that he was wearing his underpants. As LK said, fortunately they were black.

Unsure of the protocol of dealing with a stranger standing around in underpants and smoking a cigarette, LK returned to the room and locked the door and pulled the curtains tight. Again, you have to wonder what it would be like in the part of the hotel without the upgrades.

We changed our plans to drive up the east coast back to Sydney. None of us had seen Phillip Island so we are there now, and we're going to spend a few days in the Mornington before shooting back up through Albury/Wodonga on our way to see Jason and Lora on Good Friday.

Saturday, March 27, 2010


Our final full day in the Grampians was the full-on tourist thing. We drove up to Boroka Lookout and took the easy walk to the platforms. This video was made there. Unfortunately, the dial on the still camera was incorrectly set so there are no other pictures of our day.

Even more unfortunately, it was me who changed the setting without telling LK so the less said about this the better. Anyhow, it was just as well there are no photographic records, given that the last bunch of pictures shows me very red in the face with my tongue hanging out.

That's because the next stop involved driving to Reed Lookout (or Reids Lookout or Reed's Lookout, for maps and road signs had all three versions). From there it was a 1km (.6 mile) to the lookout called The Balconies. A walker returning told it was a great view and a really easy walk that only takes about 10 minutes.

He forgot to mention that flies would use your face as a lounge room on the way there, that an easy walk can still make my left hip hurt like a toothache and that a bushwalker's 10 minutes is a fat guy's half hour. Oh yes, the view also looked pretty much like the view from the place we had just been at. But then, I have never been known for a fine appreciation of Mother Nature's gifts.

After the Balconies it seemed obvious to me that it was time for a beer, but somehow the rest of the party decided we should drive on to McKenzie Falls. Once there, I was hoping for a return to sanity, but before we could even debate the merits of yet another walk in the hot sun Shirl issued a very military-sounding "Off we go. Come on, everyone."

And we actually got about 20% of the way down to the base when we were able to see just how far down we were heading. And of course, just how far up we would have to climb.I whimpered a bit, and, fortunately, Shirley needed the rest room and probably didn't fancy watching rushing water so far from the privacy of the ladies room. We all agreed it was back up the hill to the car.

From there I discovered you really can drive faster on those curvy mountain roads when you want a cold drink. And after a couple of cool ones it was back to the cabin where we saw three emus grazing on the ground and dozens of roos later that night.

Yesterday morning we drove to Ballarat and today we checked it out. Verdict next time.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

We're in the Grampians, My Friends

Today we turned north and bade farewell to the Southern Ocean as we headed into the Grampians mountain range.

Having seen the Rockies last July, I have to say that the Grampians are more like big hills than mountains, but they are pretty nonetheless. And I should add that they aren't really much smaller than my beloved Green Mountains in Vermont.

We drove through clouds on a road that had no - and I mean NO - other vehicles going in our direction. So when we finally arrived at a suddenly sunny Hall's Gap, it wasn't much of a surprise to see that there was hardly anyone else here. We have, I believe, discovered the off-season.

Shirl looked through the literature and decided that our two-day stay here would be a bit of a challenge on the fun side since almost all there is to do is take bushwalks. I don't have to tell anyone reading this that we are not your most enthusiastic back-to-nature hikers.

My solution seemed simple. If tomorrow looks like a wipe-out, then let's have a damned good reason for not taking one of those bushwalks. At that point, Shirley and I discussed in depth whether tonight would be Margarita Night or Martini Night.

LK pushed Margarita Night because she still has this overwhelming urge to cook and wanted to do tacos and tortillas in our cabin. (Did I mention we're in a cabin?) But first we needed lunch. However there wasn't much open in town. In fact, there was hardly anything open in town - and certainly the local pub was shut.

However, further down the road we found a hotel with a bistro and a bottleshop. Two for the price of one. The bistro food was good - lamb shank with about 20 pounds of mashed potato underneath it. Yummm.

When we left, we went to the bottle shop to get the ingredients for Margarita Night, having yielded to LK's Mexican arguments. Unfortunately the store seemed a bit understocked.

"You wouldn't have ready-made Margarita mix, would you?" Shirl asked in a tone that said she already knew they did not. The clerk replied by picking up a bottle of tequila to see what ingredients went into a Margarita. I gave him points for knowing the basic food group at the core of a Margarita.

As he stared at the label, LK jumped in before his lips had even started moving. "What we will need is Triple Sec. Do you have any of that?"

I am pretty sure he had never heard of Triple Sec. He may have even wondered if she was from New Zealand and saying something altogether different from what he was hearing. Regardless, it was clear within seconds what was going to happen.

I stepped in. "Not a problem. Margarita Night has officially been postponed. Tonight is now Martini Night. Do you have any dry vermouth?"

The look on his face wasn't encouraging, so Shirley stepped in and repeated "Do you have any vermouth?", obviously assuming the poor guy just couldn't get his head around my American pronunciation. However, even hearing it in his native patois did not help. Vermouth was as mysterious as Triple Sec.

"Not a worry," I said, sizing up the situation. "Martini Night is also officially postponed. Tonight will be Wine and Vodka and Scotch Night, which we already have plenty of."

Thanking him for his help, however slight it may have been, we left.

And so it came to pass that we were all sitting around the table in front of our cabin drinking our usual drinks when we looked across the lawn and saw the local fauna.

Our good friend Jaki had so wanted to see kangaroos when she and Robert visited here and never succeeded unless you count the wallaby road kill we saw in Tasmania. But unfortunately we have only just discovered that kangaroos only come out at what we consider cocktail hour. So it is only in places like this, where the roos come virtually to your front door, that you can see them as you sip a wine.

This video is dedicated to Jaki, because we know how much she would have loved seeing this herself. And now we know where we can bring her the next time she visits and wants to see kangaroos.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

My Beautiful Laundress

Sung to the tune of Dion's The Wanderer:

She's the kind of girl

Who washes clothes all night.

She's always very careful

To sort dark stuff from the white.

They call her the launderer, the launderer.

The clothes go round and round and round.

from a musical work in progress

Being homeless is starting to have an impact on my sweetie. Last night when we pulled into Port Fairy, we found that she had pulled off her usual booking magic and we were in a lovely two-bedroom place with a modern, well-equipped kitchen.

"Great," she said, "no need to eat out. Aren't we all missing home cooking?"

So Shirley and I did what you would expect us to do and told her we, too, were missing home cooking, and quite frankly when the corned beef, cabbage, potatoes and carrots made it to the table we realized we really were.

Or at least I was, for like LK I have been living out of a suitcase for quite a long time now. In fact, the maths are a wee bit daunting. Since we left for the US last July, we have slept in our own bed only 98 nights compared to 150 nights at hotels and mooching off family and friends. By the time we actually get into our house in Tasmania, we will have spent more than 75% of the past year sleeping anywhere but the high, scary bed.

So perhaps it is understandable that Linda is feeling just a little nostalgic for the homely things that happen when you - well, when you have a home. Things like cooking.

And laundry.

It is safe to say that doing the laundry has become an obsession with my bride. Having a guest laundry is one of the primary requirements for every place she books. When she checks in, the first thing she does is determine whether the guest laundry is free or she has to dig into the sack of coins she now carries with her to every place we stay.

She practically dances in glee when there is A) a free B) in-room C) modern washer and dryer. I guess I can understand. Even I don't relish being in the small confines of our car with my week-old dirty underpants sitting in the backseat. But I think it's even more.

LK has decided that for our year as vagabonds we can travel like, well, vagabonds. I was allocated a couple of shorts, a few t-shirts and as many underpants as she could cram into the suitcase. Frankly, it doesn't take too long to run out of clean clothes.

Which is more or less what happened to us in Devonport last Friday. We'd stayed in hotels in Hobart and so no laundry had been done for about a week. Sockettes were completely gone, and I was resorting to pushing down my gym socks so as not to look dorky. Well, dorky from the shins down. There's nothing I can do for the top bits.

You may recall that the room I booked was absolute crap. My guess is that it had originally been used to house the worst prisoners in the early 1800s and once Internet bookings came along the hotel re-opened it figuring people like me wouldn't notice all the warnings, such as "This accommodation has no air conditioning." Or the ones they didn't list, such as "This accommodation sits right at the bottom of the stairs and drunk people will fall against your door throughout the evening."

LK hated the room. With a passion. But she did love the fact that there was a free laundry downstairs. She grabbed the washing machine late in the afternoon, and throughout the evening she would come to the room, take a sip of something amber and then bolt back downstairs clutching yet another bag of our dirty clothes.

Evidently there were lots of other guests trying to use the only washing machine, but LK had timed it so that she could get our next load in before anyone else got back in time. She even started lying to people, telling them she was waiting for the dryer to finish (which she was) but that someone else had just popped in and started a wash load.

Anyhow, no one figured out that she was essentially seizing a community asset all for herself - or if they did figure it out, they decided it wasn't worth the fight with a woman who was clearly acting a bit crazed about all this laundry stuff on a Friday night.

We ended up with all our clothes clean, and on the ferry back to the mainland it was a very smug wife of mine who sat back, smiled and quietly said, "I think we ended up in the worst room of the hotel. But I got $20 worth of laundry done, so it wasn't all bad."

Monday, March 22, 2010

The 12 Apostles

Today was the day we came here for. The 12 Apostles are on the road from Apollo Bay to Port Fairy, and we were going to see them. (And LK and Shirl were helping anyone who needed assistance figuring out how many Apostles there were.)

Today's trip started out slowly. A short while after leaving Apollo Bay we turned into the very long road to the lighthouse at Cape Otway - "Australia's most significant lighthouse", the literature insisted. I should add that the main reason we turned down the road was because we had been told we would see koalas in their natural habitat. Which we did - and which made the side trip worth the effort.

When we got to the lighthouse, some bright bulb had decided that anyone who had driven that far down the road would pay $16.50 to see the lighthouse. They didn't reckon on retired people like me. I quickly calculated that the three of us would spend $49.50 - which was just about what I would need for a case of cleanskin white wines.

We didn't go through to see the lighthouse.

Instead we returned to the Great Ocean Road and headed west. It was at this point that the Great Ocean Road should have been renamed the Great Forest and Farmland Road, for the planners had it taking a pretty severe turn away from the sea. However, eventually we turned south and could see the blue skies of the ocean sitting just behind those overhead.

And it was soon after that we had our payback for the trip as the most magnificent geography awaited. We had all seen pictures of the 12 Apostles, the limestone formations towering in the near surf of the Southern Ocean as it pounds into the cliffs of this part of Victoria.

What no picture can convey, though. is the size and scope of these structures and the impact of seeing so many of them standing together. You can see the pictures LK took today here, but nothing can match the feeling you get actually standing there looking at these awesome structures.

A little down the road from the Apostles was Loch Ard Gorge, which is to me equally impressive. We walked down about 80 steps to the sandy beach where we saw huge limestone caves with stalactites hanging down from the cliffside. And to turn around there was this pounding surf forcing its way through the narrow opening where it had already worn away the wall of stone connecting the two sides.

Today's lesson was clearly about erosion and the power of the sea. And also about how easy it is to walk down 80 steps and how it is not as easy on the way back up.

We are in Port Fairy tonight and will stay through tomorrow before heading north, away from the ocean and into the Grampian Mountains. We're having a ball.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Branch Out

Why are these ladies smiling? Stay with me, and you'll find out.

Posting has been a challenge lately for some reason, so I will try to do a catch-up today.

On Friday we drove to Devonport to stay over night before catching the ferry. I booked the hotel.

Linda has decided I will never be permitted to book a hotel again. And I completely agree with her. This may have been the worst room we have ever stayed in.

There was a plus side to the place in that we ended up with all our clothes clean, but I will leave that topic to a post later this week.

The ferry ride over on Saturday was long, but uneventful. We now know that the Spirit of Tasmania never seems to leave on time, which may or may not be a comment on the state. But since we've retired, that's neither here nor there.

The real adventure came when we got off the ferry. I should mention that Honor the GPS has been put on compassionate leave and we have hired Mandy, a perky American-voiced GPS. Mandy, who joined us in Launceston, was doing pretty well on her first week of duty around Tasmania but she and Chief Navigator Linda had some tense moments in Melbourne as we tried to get to our hotel.

I went online before we left and wrote down the address, which was in the 800 block of St Kilda Road (and no, Americans, I have no clue who Saint Kilda was, but I am pretty sure he is the reason there are no bears in Australia.)

Anyhow, Mandy kept insisting there was no address in the 800's for St Kilda Road, so she agreed to get us to the 600 block and let us work it out from there ourselves. Well, to make a long story a bit longer, we ended up running out of room on St Kilda Road and could not find the hotel, so we stopped at the 7-11 at the intersection where it ended.

LK went in to ask the clerk there for advice, and when he and his friend pulled out a map book to try to locate the street they were sitting 10 yards from, she politely told them she was going back to the car to see if the GPS was working again.

Fortunately, some guys pulled up at the store, heard our problem and told us in very clear terms how to get to the hotel. It was only when we got there that I realized I hadn't been wearing reading glasses and had thought the 3 was an 8. Oh well, at least LK and Mandy are back on speaking terms.

On Saturday we drove to the airport to pick up Shirley and then headed down to the Great Ocean Road to tour the coastline between Melbourne and South Australia. It is spectacular scenery and you could stop every few minutes to take a picture of the beautiful places. Well, you could if you weren't driving with a couple of people who kept saying, "No, let's just drive on. There will be plenty more opportunities to see beautiful coastline."

Today we are staying in Apollo Bay, and I decided to organize a bit of a sightseeing expedition. I got LK and Shirl to pile in the car and suggested we take the road marked "Scenic Route" up the Barham River to Mariner's Falls.

From the back seat, Shirl piped up that the literature from the visitor center said it was 3.6kM walk to the falls, but I told her we were driving there not walking, and off we went. The road was a bit narrow, but when it turned from farmland into a rain forest, it became quite impressive. Well, the scenery did. The road, however, narrowed and soon became a dirt road with lots of curves.

I was humming the theme from Deliverance when I drove over a small branch that got stuck in the undercarriage of the car. It wasn't doing any damage, but it was making a very annoying noise so I pulled over to try to get rid of it. I was just trying to figure out how to look under the car without having a winch to get me back up when I heard a chainsaw start up not too far away. I did not wait for the big guy with the hockey mask and the butcher's apron, but got right back in the car and drove on with the branch scraping the road.

We finally got to the parking lot for Mariner's Falls and pulled over. As you can see from the picture, the falls are charming. We, like you, however are relying on the picture at the right because in the parking lot there was a sign saying the walk to the falls 3.6kM. Which is, as you may recall, what Shirley said before we headed out from Apollo Bay.

Anyhow, I quickly calculated 3.6kM in miles as 2-point-something, and decided that I could make a decision as tour guide. "No way we're walking that far just to see a waterfall," I said. Which may have been the first popular decision I had made this morning judging from LK and Shirley's reaction.

Anyhow, in gratitude they solved my car problem by getting the branch out from underneath. I guess it was gratitude even though LK said, "I am getting down and getting that branch out because there's no way either of us can get you up if you get down there."

So grabbing an umbrella, LK poked at the branch and when it shifted to the side, she passed the baton to Shirley who got it out completely.

Anyhow, by the time we got back to paved roads and eventually Apollo Bay, it was time for lunch. Bloody Marys to start, tapas for starters, chardonnay with the mains of octopus, grilled fish and mussels.

Tomorrow, we see the Apostles and end up in Port Fairy. I still have a few catch-up posts to do. I need to write about LK's obsession with laundry, and I am struggling to find a way to write about some of the things Shirley has said or done without appearing cruel to her.

Thursday, March 18, 2010


Well, you have to hand it to us. This week we proved that you don't need a house to entertain a house guest.

Our friend David dropped into Hobart Sunday to visit us in our new home. And we promptly pointed out to him that a house is not a home. And in fact, you don't even need a house to have a home. (OK, you do need something obviously. We more or less convinced David that everything we need from day-to-day is in the back of our car, and David - being such an understanding sole - proceeded to call us homeless people who were living in their car.

Which is really unfair because we only keep our stuff in the car. We actually sleep in beds, either with friends who are bound to grow very tired of us soon, or cheap motels. And the topic of cheap motels is one I am not willing to discuss right now since I am sitting and sweating in a room in Devonport because I did not read all the online stuff, one line of which read "This configuration of room does not include air conditioning."

It's all kind of ironic that so many of our friends kept asking us why we would move to a place that was so cold and here we are sweating away in early autumn. In fact Hobart turned out Paradise-quality weather for David's visit - cloudless skies, mid-20s (mid-70sF), sunny, gentle breezes - and we did our best to try to convince him that this was pretty much par for the course, even though we have absolutely no idea if that is true. We've become very defensive about Hobart and its climate. Fortunately, so far Hobart has given us plenty to defend.

Having a guest visit us in Hobart is ironic since, in the past several years while we lived in Sydney, we had almost no overseas visitors who came to stay with us. Now that we are Hobartians (or is it Hobies? I am pretty sure it's not Hobarters) it is interesting that we have had our first US visitor come here.

It would have been nice to have a house, a guestroom and a comfy bed for our first Tasmanian guest, but we were way too optimistic when we asked David to swing down on his trip to Sydney and visit us here.

As many of you know, events just did not mesh for us this time around. We had been renting the house to Stanley and Ann, a lovely couple in their 90s, for the past several years, and we initially had not planned to move in until the end of their lease in July. However, in December Stanley passed away, and Ann requires 24-hour care so the executors of the estate were moving vigorously to get her into a facility.

Silly us, we figured that by now this would have happened. As it turns out, the waiting lists for the local facilities move ever so slowly and, as Ann rebounded from the grief of losing her husband, her condition seemed less severe and the doctors reduced the level of urgency to get her admitted to a facility.

So, it's now back to Plan A whereby we will not be moving into the house until the end of the lease in July. By then we are sure she will have moved, and in fact our agent tells us that having her lease ending will move her toward the top of the waiting list once again.

But for now we are wandering the world, living on the kindness of family and friends when possible, and on the power of Visa and Amex when not possible. Tonight we are back in Devonport getting ready to take the ferry tomorrow. Then it's a tour of Victoria and a nice drive up the coast back to Sydney by Easter. From there - the world beckons.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Ferry Dust

Taking the ferry from Melbourne to Tasmania proved to be pretty much a non-event. Even LK complained it wasn't much of an adventure as we left.

It took quite awhile to get on as they loaded containers, and those of us bringing our vehicles did not get to drive aboard until about 90 minutes after we first went through the security check. That security check, by the way, comprised a very friendly guy asking to look at our engine and in the boot (trunk). He asked if we were carrying explosives (we weren't) and alcohol (we were). He told us we were OK but we had to leave the booze in the car when we went aboard the ship. (And by the way, one of us ignored that rule and had amber alerts answered in the room.)

Since it was a night crossing we had paid to have one of the rooms with twin beds in them. As you can see from this picture on the ferry website, the rooms were not quite as large as the rooms we have been in on our cruises. In fact, they weren't quite as large as our linen cupboard - when we used to have one.

But there were two single beds and fresh linen, so they served their purpose.

I worry a lot about ferries. It may just be my impression but it seems that year in and out, more people die from ferry accidents than airplanes crashing.

In 2009 alone 13 ferries sank in: Bali, Nepal, Kiribati, Macedonia, the Philippines (twice), Sierra Leone, Croatia, Japan, Myanmar, Indonesia, Bangladesh, and Egypt with losses of more than 640 lives. By comparison, last year's commercial airplane crashes were limited to eight with 677 lives lost.

But, I reasoned with myself, we aren't taking a ferry from Kiribati or Sierra Leone or Bangladesh. We're taking a ferry in Australia, not some third world country. Feeling more secure, I went into the loo and changed my mind when I saw a sticker on the wall with the heading: "κίνδυνος"

The rest of the sign was more of the same, and I realized what they meant when they said "It's all Greek to me." I couldn't tell if we were being warned to throw anything in the toilet that had not once been part of us or if it in fact was telling us what to do if the water was higher than the window on our room. What I did know, though, was that I was riding on the Spirit of Tasmania, a reconditioned ferry from some place that put stickers saying "κίνδυνος" on their walls.

Well, as I found out only days later, the Spirit of Tasmania II started life in 1988 as Superfast III, built by the Finns and operated by the Greeks (hence the sign). In 1999 the Superfast had a bit of a problem going from Patras to Ancona, and 413 passengers and crew were evacuated to life rafts due to a fire in the vehicle hold. Fourteen people were later found dead in the hold.

Three years later Superfast III became Spirit of Tasmania II, which I am assuming was in no way referencing the problems of 1988. Nonetheless, aboard the ship we both slept like babies and didn't wake up until they made the announcement that we would be docking in half an hour.

LK had only one concern as we drive our car off the ferry. "Donald," she asked, "can we count this as a cruise?"

I didn't think so at the time, but on Friday we drive back to return to Melbourne. Now that I know the history of the ferry I am thinking maybe if we can survive one more crossing, I might let her count the return crossing.

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Paper Chase

Sometimes I think there is a god of blogs who makes things happen to me because he is bored with my posts and wants to liven this thing up a bit. I will tell you why in a second, but first I am falling hopelessly behind in posting about our trip so I want to do a little catch up of the week.

On Monday we had our last laugh with Robert and Jaki at an early lunch, followed of course by a Magnum bar for Jaki. Then we drove them to the airport to begin their long flight home to California.

That night we finally had a chance to catch up with Lily when she and Rachael and Matt met us at Montezuma's for dinner. Rach had to work so we dropped Shirley home and then drove Lily to her other grandmother's, where she and Rach are staying. Thank God Honor the GPS decided to work one last time because there is no way we would have worked our way through the maze of twists and turns that is Earlwood. At one point I had visions of paying a taxi to lead us there, but in her final act Honor popped on and got Lily home.

Tuesday I started my day out with a haircut. You may recall that last September I had a particularly close cut while in Norwood. That is it on the left. Not that it traumatized me, but I haven't let a pair of scissors near my head since then and by Tuesday morning, that picture on the right is what I looked like.

Anyhow, off to Andrea's for a tidy-up, and now that I am short again I figure it should last me to September.

After the haircut, we had some errands to run so we said good-bye to Shirley, picked up some stuff in the storage bin, ran to a few banks and headed to Canberra to see Jason and Lora. (If you are confused by the spelling of her name, so am I. Some times she's Laura, as in Bush, and some times she's Lora as in Keet. Either way, she's a great person.)

We got to see their new home and peek through the windows of the place where Lora works, then had dinner at a good pasta and pizza place in Manuka. (Which is pronounced like Monica, as in Lewinsky, although you would have to be a genius to guess that.)

On Wednesday we headed back to the Hume Highway to continue on towards Melbourne. This was the first time I had driven on this road, and I had not realized Australia actually had some excellent highways like this. It was easy driving, very little traffic and cruise control at the limit - 110 (that would be 68 mph in the US).

We had lunch at a pub in Holbrook, which has a full-sized submarine in its town square despite being more than 100 miles from the ocean. We didn't ask.

Then on to Wodonga. I had told Andrea we were going there while she was cutting my hair. She hails from twin city Albury just north in New South Wales, and she told me there wasn't much to see in Wodonga. I told her we were looking forward to seeing the world's biggest bowling pin, as verified by the Guinness Book of Records. And at that Andrea said I knew more about Wodonga than she did.

Since Jason and Lora had been married in a bowling alley, they were eager for us to get a picture. But as we pulled into town there was a bowling alley, and we saw a pretty unimpressive bowling pin - maybe 6-feet high. It certainly was not enough reason to pull over and take a picture. We drove around town looking for, perhaps, a slightly more majestic bowling pin but none was to be found.

I expressed my surprise that such a paltry bowling pin could make the Guinness Book of Records, but LK reasoned, "They probably just don't make really big bowling pins."

I don't know if she was right or not. But I re-checked Wikipedia while writing this post and I did read a little more carefully this time. Apparently Wodonga holds the Guinness record for world's biggest rolling pin, not bowling pin. Since the kids weren't married in a bakery, I don't think they would care about that picture anyhow.

From Wodonga, we drove to Seymour for lunch. We pulled into Somerset Winery and Restaurant around noon. It was a lovely looking place, but before we got our table we both made a pit stop in the rest rooms. It was only after we came out that it occurred to us that the place seemed a bit quiet - as in everything was closed. "Well, that would explain why we're the only ones in the parking lot," LK said. "I had assumed it was just because we were so early."

Anyhow, we had to backtrack into town, and ended up at the pub where we had an old-fashioned roast beef dinner for lunch. Bear with me, this will become relevant quite soon.

From Seymour, it was only about an hour to the Melbourne city limits. We had four or five hours to kill before we could put the car onto the ferry, but in Melbourne that is never a problem. There are beautiful parks, wonderful museums, lovely neighborhoods where you can sit and people-watch over a coffee or wine. Or go to the casino, which is what we did.

When we were going in, the pub lunches had caught up with me and I told LK to go in ahead and I would catch up. And this is where the God of Blogs decided my life was too humdrum.

After a stay in the stall in which I could have finished my novel had I remembered to bring it, I was ready to go. There was one small problem. While there was plenty of toilet paper in the dispenser, I couldn't get any of it to come out. I reached in, jiggled it, pinched it, pulled it, pounded the dispenser, tried to pry it open - well, trust me, I tried everything I could. And trust me, also, when I say that I reallllllly needed that paper.

Finally I was reduced to pulling litte shreds from the part of the roll that I could reach. Having vowed to work on improving my patience, I resigned myself to taking minutes to get a sheet's worth of paper in my hand. And then I had about the equivalent of a spitball rather than the wad that this situation required.

Anyhow, even my little scraps of paper stopped coming soon enough. I had no choice. I took out my handkerchief. Now, given what that hankie was going to be used for, it probably says heaps about me that I was really glad I hadn't used it yet.

Anyhow, that did the trick. I was ready to leave the stall. But it did occur to me that, while there was a corner of the hankie I could hold that would be safe, I didn't particularly relish the idea of walking out of the stall waving it in front of me for all to see.

So I stood in the stall waiting for the men's room to sound empty. Except it wasn't. Some guy had his mobile phone on speaker and was doing his banking with the automated voice system. And he kept being told he had isufficient funds to transfer.

Didn't stop him. He punched in new codes and started again. By now I had been in the loo so long I was worried that LK could have lost our nest egg in the casino, and I really did want to get out. Which was when it occurred to me that if this guy was in the toilet of the casino doing his mobile banking, he probably didn't want his wife to know he lost their nest egg. So I opened the door, walked quickly to the wastebin and said farewell to my hankie. Turns out the banking guy was also in a stall.

I then washed my hands with antibacterial soap for about five minutes. And still the guy was trying to find an account that had some dough in it.

Since this is only slightly shorter than War and Peace, I will leave the post about the ferry until next time. But we are back in Tassie now and having fun.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Failing Honor

What is left when honor is lost?
Publilius Syrus (100 BC), Maxims

When honor dies, the man is dead.
John Greenleaf Whittier, Ichabod

We have officially been homeless since for 27 days. In that time we have slept in more beds than Tiger Woods and bounced around the map like mad chooks in search of their heads.

But we did not worry. Home is a state of mind in the 21st Century as technology lets you do anything anywhere any time.
  • With our GPS guiding us, we can travel further than the Leyland Brothers and Albie Mangels combined (sorry, American readers, but you'll just have to google them if it matters to you).
  • With our phones, we are always in touch.
  • With our PCs fixed with wireless broadband, we can do the things you need to do - read and write e-mails, pay bills, book the place we are going to sleep at tomorrow and play online poker.
  • With our iPods and Kindles, we can pack hundreds of albums and books into devices that fit into your hand.
  • And we have our digital cameras and Flip videos along to record all our adventures and share with our family and friends.
And here's what has happened in the 27 days since we handed technology the keys to our lives.

  • The touchpad on my laptop stopped working, making it impossible to do anything on it.
  • My mobile phone wouldn't hold a charge, but it didn't even matter because the keypad wouldn't respond to anything I did trying to enter numbers.
  • The iPod turned on and then immediately froze, refusing to acknowledge that I was tapping just about every icon on the screen hoping one would respond.
  • The GPS started acting flaky, and then finally refused to come on at all.

I quite honestly started to wonder if I had somehow developed some negative energy that was sucking the life out of my electronic devices.

I certainly had to take my lumps for even more pure human error in this sorry tale. I forgot to pack the battery charger for the digital camera, so once we had taken the first batch of pictures there was no way to take any more. Since the charger is now sitting in a box in a container in a warehouse in Hobart, we had to buy another camera.

Now, some good news. The phone and the PCs seemed to be reacting badly to the high humidity in Port Douglas and have been - more or less - OK since we returned to climates that the Good Lord intended for human habitation.

The iPod responded well to the AG principle that anything that isn't working should be shut off and turned on again. It - so far - has not frozen again.

But the sad news from this trip is that Honor, our GPS, is seriously out of sorts. This is the same Honor who led us across America in our great adventure last year and became my favorite (and LK's least favorite) electronic device.

But something has gone wrong with Honor. She stays dark and quiet most of the time. I know electronic devices cannot suffer from depression, but that exactly describes her condition.

It is no small thing that LK has spent weeks abusing her and pointing out her weaknesses lately, but I am not ready to blame LK. It seems to me it started to turn sour when Honor became overwhelmed trying to deal with the South Australia Southern Expressway (the "Reversible Expressway"). For the first time ever, every route she suggested was ignored. Every time she calmly said, "Turn around at the first opportunity," we proceeded straight ahead.

I think her confidence was destroyed that day. She was wrong - repeatedly - and, even worse, she was no longer needed.

Consider what happened a week later near the Bay of Fires in Tasmania. We were driving along a steep cliff and yet Honor insisted that we "turn left in 50 yards." I think at that stage we should have realized she was suicidal and did not even care that all of us in the car would have gone down with her.

Anyhow, she's mute now. Wouldn't even talk to us when we went to Canberra last night or on to Wodonga today.

I felt the only chance to bring her back was to put her in shock therapy today, doing a re-set and a complete re-install. (But first I had to go to an electronics store because I had packed the device that connects her to the PC.)

Alas, all to no avail. Honor still refuses to speak, won't even turn on the lights.

We have no choice but to replace her tomorrow. And when I say no choice, that's especially true because the extended warranty I bought for the GPS is also sitting in a box in a warehouse in Hobart, and I can't even get there if I don't get another device.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Last Supper

So there we were on Sunday night, having finally landed back in Sydney.

Robert and Jaki had spent 4 1/2 weeks in Sydney, Cairns, Port Douglas, McLaren Vale, the Barossa Valley, Hobart, Bay of Fires, Christchurch, Lake Tekapo, Queenstown, Dunedin and Oamaru. They were spending their last night in Oz at North Sydney, and after so many adventures it seemed natural that we had to show off yet one more Sydney institution.

For their Last Supper here, we picked The Oaks. Anyone from Sydney will know, but for you others, The Oaks is a rambling, multi-bar hotel on the North Shore which is famous for the massive oak tree in the back where dozens of people sit around drinking and eating. And that's the second thing it is famous for - most people eating here cook their own dinner, flinging meat and potatoes they buy in the bar on the huge grills that are roaring in the back.

LK, Shirley and I got there ahead of Robert and Jaki and we staked out a spot near the tree. It was a lovely early-March night. Until Robert and Jaki arrived a few moments later.

Then it was a drizzly night pretty much typical of the Sydney weather they had encountered in their first week here during the Sydney Rainwater Festival. But we all decided we could maneuver the umbrellas to more or less keep the water off of us. And the rest of us decided we could put up with being wet.

We drank Elderton cabernet (except for LK, who of course was dealing with an amber alert). After a few rounds it seemed like a good time to put some chow on the wet table. In a sterling example of how 21st Century men are re-defining gender roles, Robert and I let the women do the cooking.

But to be honest, I think it had less to do with gender definition than that he and I had more red wine than a good chef should have. Which is to say that I am pretty sure LK preferred cooking it herself rather than risk whatever I may dish up.

Anyhow, the night was great fun. And despite four full-on weeks and thousands of kilometres travelling together, it was hard to believe our friends were flying home in the morning. But we felt this must be a most appropriate Aussie send-off to our Yank friends - celebrate their final night by drinking lots of wine and making them cook their own food and eat it in the pouring rain.

Monday, March 8, 2010


Our final full day in New Zealand did not go as planned. We had arrived in Dunedin late in the afternoon and had thought of visiting some of that city's attractions, especially Lanarch Castle. However, we awoke to fog and drizzle. Despite my insistence every half hour that it would clear off within half an hour, the crew stopped believing me as 11am rolled around. So we decided to head up the road about an hour and a half to our next destination, Oamaru.

I promised them all that the clouds would leave us around noon, and it was duly noted that the sun broke through at 12:04. Nonetheless, some in the back seat continued to remind me that I had been wrong all morning and couldn't claim victory with a single correct forecast.

As it turned out, though, Oamaru was a great choice for the day. According to Wikipedia, Oamaru is Maori for "home of Maru". Unfortunately, no one is quite sure who Maru is, so it leaves the town with a bit of an identity crisis.

This small-ish harbor town (and yes, it is about the same population as Rutland) has dealt with its identity by getting seriously into its historic past. The old warehouses in the port have been converted into shops for artisans and craftsmen, and the historic district goes so far as to have penny farthings leaning against the walls of the old buildings.

To be honest, there didn't seem to be heaps of stuff to buy there - unless you want a penny farthing, and believe me I don't - but somehow LK still ended up needing help with her packages. We couldn't resist that picture at the top of the post. It was a sign in the antique store, but it seemed a perfect backdrop for LK's picture.

But the real tourist attraction of Oamaru is its wildlife. There were signs along the road warning people that penguins may be crossing. There are actually two colonies of penguins that live here. One is blue penguins, and the other is a flock (if that's the right word) of yellow-eyed penguins.

At 6:30 we wandered out to blinds in the hills above the beach where the yellow-eyed penguins live.

Around that time, we had been told, they start rolling in on the high tide and waddle their way across the sand to the shrubs in the hills at the back of the beach. The penguins, though, didn't get on stage until about half an hour later. The opening act was some very fat seals that pretty much lay on the sand until the water got close. At that point, they slid into the sea. It wasn't a great act, but it did give us something to watch.

That little guy in the picture wandered up pretty high and got within reasonable range of the camera, so we were able to get a decent shot of him. We also saw a couple of others roll in on the surf, but they were too far away to be more than a dot in the frame.

Actually, while waiting for the penguins I remembered why I hated hunting and fishing. I guess it's fair to say I am not a particularly patient person. We were told the penguins came in around 6:30, and by 6:40 I was getting pretty bored and starting to resent that nobody ever seems to start a show on time any more.

Then a little after 7, there was a buzz and several people began pointing. Jaki came up, "Did you see him?" And the answer was No, I didn't see him. Apparently everyone else was able to catch the first penguin's act, but not me. And that brought all the memories of my few forays into hunting, where I never saw the deer, the bird, and often even the tree branch in front of me. I believe I hit the quinella for not being a hunter - no patience and no visual acuity.

Finally, after watching kelp wash back and forth and thinking it was more birds, one real penguin actually did stand up in the sand and wander away. I waited a few moments after this startling observation and then suggested to the crew that it was already 90 minutes into cocktail hour and, having finally seen a penguin in nature, I would like to celebrate it.

The others weren't too hard to convince, either. But then there was some very good news later. While standing on the balcony of our room, I looked over the fence at the backyard of the house next door.

Now many of you will be looking at this shot wondering what it has to do with wildlife. But the sharp-eyed among you may have spotted the wild beast waiting in the shadows to pounce.

We ended up calling her Daisy, and it is one of the wonderful things about this part of New Zealand. In the middle of an urban neighborhood, you can look at the house with the beautifully trimmed back yard and have a pretty good idea that there may well be a Daisy lurking in the shadows.

Next morning, we drove to Christchurch and flew to Sydney. Tomorrow's post will be about Robert and Jaki's Last Supper in Oz.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Bad Connections

Hi All - Just a quick post. We had an abysmal connection yesterday at Oamaru and couldn't bear the time it would have taken to upload pictures (probably hours). We had a great day there and will post tomorrow. At the Christchurch Airport now and heading to Sydney. The Oaks tonight for Robert and Jaki's last supper in Oz. (Might as well make them cook for themselves on their final night.)
Oamaru post tomorrow.

Friday, March 5, 2010

The Road to Dunedin

That's the view from our balcony in Queenstown, looking out over Lake Wakatipu at the mountains known as the Remarkables. We had a lazy day and a half here (OK, we being LK and me; Jaki and Robert went for a very vigorous walk), and this morning it was time to pack up the Rav4 one more time and head to Dunedin.

First stop was not too far from town. The Cheesery at Gibbston Valley had done a fair amount of promotion, and we were ready to try their wares. They promised a variety of cheese styles and a combination of cow, goat and sheep's milk cheeses. (Whenever I think of that, I always have this mental picture of a barn full of sheep with little mini-milking machines attached. Although the option - thinking about someone whose job is to milk the wooly little buggers - isn't much better.)

It's good that we're leaving soon because they offered tastings of about six types and each was fantastic. As it is, we got three different kinds but in small portions. It was only last year that my doctor told me my cholesterol numbers were good. "But that doesn't mean you can start eating cheese again," he said. I didn't bother to tell him that I never stopped.

Our next stop was about 20 minutes down the road, when we pulled into the Clyde Dam Overlook. From the car we could see that we were, indeed, overlooking a dam. And we could also see that there really wasn't anything interesting to look at, either.

The only good thing is that Robert started the ball rolling by making a joke using the word "dam". Then LK, then Jaki. OK, maybe even me. Pretty lame stuff, I suppose, but that's what happens when you've all been driving for days on end and getting a bit loopy. Mind you, my joke was dam good, not like the others.

After that, we hightailed it to Ranfurly, a city that is known for two things: 1) it is the largest settlement in the Maniototo district of Otago, New Zealand and 2) every year in February it has a festival to celebrate the town's heritage of art deco architecture.

Now, to put things into perspective I probably need to tell you that 1) its population is about 1,000 and 2) it has perhaps three buildings that kind of, more or less, are art deco unless you also count places like the accountant who put up a sign with art deco lettering. I can only surmise that the February festival is more about having a party than actually celebrating the two or three buildings they have. I suspect it is so popular that the town's population actually swells to 1,200 during the week.

The scarcity of art deco buildings was pretty disappointing because we were looking forward to seeing an interesting place and it didn't turn out that way. Well, I should say that is true for the others and not for me.

While they were wandering around the shops (all two of them) and otherwise searching for art deco buildings, I went down the block a ways and found culture - a statue dedicated to John Turnbull Thomson, chief surveyor of Otago in the mid 19th century and eventually Surveyor General of New Zealand.

Judging from his statue, I have to believe that he was also on steroids and spent the first three hours of the day working on his upper body. Or perhaps that is a statue done in the art deco style.

After that, we took the road to Palmerston, where we turned onto the highway to shoot down to Dunedin. It was uneventful.

Unless you count this. I guess the only real surprise is that it wasn't sheep:

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Road to Queenstown

The South Island is a beautiful part of the world. When we awoke yesterday, we could look out our window at Lake Tekapo, a deep blue glacial lake high in the mountains here. There's a tiny chapel right at lake's edge, and in the tradition of all tourism - if it's a church, it must be an attraction. So that's the first thing we did when we checked out.

It is actually quite a cool place, probably only room for 20 people at most, and the back wall is a huge picture window looking out on the lake. It would be easy to let your mind wander during a sermon with that view.

What that picture doesn't show is how windy this place is. The two days we were there, the cold winds were constantly howling. As beautiful as the place is, it would be tough living with that kind of wind throughout the year.

That next picture is the view from our room. LK has managed to book some of the great places on this trip, while I still recall the "villas" I booked at the Bay of Fires. It's pretty clear that she has a future as our personal trip planner, and my role is better left to chronicling our adventures.

From Tekapo we drove down Route 8 to another glacial lake, Pukaki. The postcard shots just kept on coming, and this lake had the added advantage of cloud-tipped Mount Cook in the background.

The lake is just a few miles away from the town of Twizel. We stopped in there to get fuel and limes. I guess you can see where our priorities are by that decision.

At the next little town we considered having lunch but I had passed the place before we saw it, and I am getting so tired of backtracking that I decided we should just soldier on to the next town.

Little did I know that the next town was quite far away and to get there we had to go through the Lindis Pass and Valley.

This was a spectacular drive, though, with rolling mountains on each side of us as we drove through. That picture of it is from a tourist web site since we didn't think to stop for a shot. (OK, since I was hungry and just wanted to get to a place to eat.)

After some pretty good burgers at a little cafe on the other side of the Lindis Valley, we continued on to Queenstown. We stopped at the Roaring Meg river for a quick look.

The speculation is that the river was named after a particularly boisterous bar maid. Gotta love the Kiwis. Other places name their geographic sites after statesmen, explorers and heroes. Here, the barmaid gets a whole river named after her.

We arrived at Queenstown late in the afternoon. We could have done a bit of exploring, but it was so close to cocktail hour that we took the sensible decision and deferred that until the morning.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Hacked Off

It almost always happens when I come to New Zealand, but I forgot that it would.

That simple two hour difference in time is just enough to totally mess up my body clock. That, plus the inevitable drowse on the flight over, means I am wide awake till the wee hours and lose much of the morning. And since LK suffers from jet lag much worse than I do, we basically lost our first morning here.

By late morning we had finally surfaced and around noon we were feeling the effects of not having had dinner the night before so the four of us walked into the CBD to find a restaurant.


Oh dear. Would you believe that some malicious software stepped in at this stage of the post and took over my computer? It would not let me get back to blogger.com to finish it off, and every time I typed it in, I ended up with some site promoting adventure tours, etc.

I quit Firefox and tried Safari, but it was a network-wide thing and not just linked to the browser. The only solution was to shut the pc off and reboot. It cleared the crap out of the system, but I had lost most of the post. Add in that I am feeling insecure that something could have been planted on the pc, and I am not in the mood to stay on line much more.

So - a quick recap of yesterday and today. After a very tasty lunch in Christchurch - along with a bottle of Cloudy Bay to complete the symmetry from lunch at Lee's on Sunday - we wandered a bit under a very strange sky with bright blue on the horizon and a canopy of darker clouds hovering overhead.

Jaki and Robert wandered off the botanical gardens but LK and I opted for computer time, reading emails and booking ahead for the rest of this week and some of next. Then a nice dinner outside a Christchurch restaurant last night and our day was done - although after midnight, which was late for this group.

Today we drove to Lake Tekapo. OK, we mostly drove to Lake Tekapo and backtracked about 7 miles when I went past the turn. It's gorgeous, and I will post pictures and more about it tomorrow.

For now, it's been frustrating to have the malicious crap happen to the pc, and I think I will call it a night. Oh, but not before a bit of celebration that Syracuse is now ranked No 1 in basketball. Go Orange.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Magnum Force

Ego Caramel is nothing but pure decadence. Creamy vanilla ice cream coated in two layers of Streets Magnum milk chocolate encasing a thick caramel sauce. It's supreme indulgence.

Streets' Magnum web site

OK, I don't normally run ads for high-calorie products in this blog, but the Magnum Ego Caramel ice cream bar has taken on a life of its own during this trip.

Unbeknownst to LK and me, our friend Jaki is an addict - a true chocolate addict. And if you have to be an addict, chocolate is a socially acceptable addiction to have. You can purchase your drug of choice at every grocery store, service station and news stands. Then it's perfectly acceptable to fulfill your cravings in full public view. No one grimaces and thinks to themselves that you're a weak, shameful person. Most just wish you'd share your chocolate with them.

Now Miss Jaki has grown very fond of the Streets Magnum ice cream bars during her stay here. In particular she has never met an Ego Caramel Bar that she hasn't liked. I should add that she is very disappointed that she has yet to meet a live kangaroo during her holiday (she won't let me count a dead wallaby we saw by the roadside), but I am pretty sure the Ego Caramel has gone a long way to assuaging that.

I can also add that she has given the Australian version of Snickers bars a thumbs up. In fact, she was quite upset that she forgot and left one in the freezer when we left the Barossa Valley.

We had a 5-hour layover in Sydney on our way to Christchurch yesterday, so LK and I decided to do what anyone would. We had everyone jump in a taxi at the airport and went to the northshore for lunch at Lee's Fortuna Court.

We had been so flat-out during Robert and Jaki's week in Sydney that we hadn't taken them to one of our favorite restaurants, and we really wanted them to have a chance to try the lamb pancakes and shantung chicken. To celebrate our imminent trip to New Zealand, we had a Cloudy Bay sauvignon blanc to wash it down. (OK, two if you must be precise.)

And at the end, Jaki learned something she had never suspected. Kit Kat candy bars are apparently Asian in origin and an appropriate dessert at a Chinese restaurant. At least, LK and I have always assumed that's why Stan gives them out at the end of the meal.

Robert and I didn't want our Kit Kats, and you can easily guess who scooped them off the table and put them in her purse. Frankly, I think she was even a bit annoyed that LK did eat hers, but Jaki couldn't figure out a way to get her to change her mind.

I will write a little about Christchurch in the next post, but for now it is enough to add that as we walked down the street today Jaki wondered aloud if they sell Magnum bars over here. That reminds me of the famous line Clint Eastwood used in - what else - Magnum Force: "You have to ask yourself, Do I feel lucky? Well, do you?"


PS A few days ago I promised to upload the video LK made of Hobart and the Derwent River as seen from Mt Nelson Signal Station. This is it: