Success is getting what you want; happiness is liking what you get

Wednesday, 29 August 2018

Reflecting Back

Now home from our Aussie Adventure these last few days, we’ve had time to empty our suitcases and reflect on our trip.  It’s no good dwelling on the Rail Trip which didn’t happen – with the promise of a full refund, you can be sure we will try again,  perhaps for next year.  After all, it is one of the great rail trips of the world, travelling across the Australian Continent from the Indian Ocean to the Pacific Ocean.

Perth was a lovely city, and one we had never visited before.  We read Perth has the title of the most isolated capitol city in the world.  That being the case, there are plenty of people happy to live there, and plenty more who come over for a visit.  We loved the wonderful Kings Park, and the free buses around the CBD.

Our visit to Rottnest Island was something we had been looking forward too, and seeing those cute little quokkas.  Sadly, with thoughtless tourists bribing them with food for photo shots, their health is suffering.  We stayed overnight, and once the last ferry had left for the day, the place was practically deserted. Rottnest Island has few permanent residents, with most island workers commuting from the mainland.

I often commented that we were probably the only Kiwis who had never visited Sydney – that has now been rectified as we have finally experienced our first visit there.  A huge, busy, cosmopolitan city, our accommodation was just across the road from the busy Central Station.  Trains, buses, and light rail will take you wherever you want to go on your pre-paid Opal card.  As do the ferries down at Circular Quay, what an exciting place that was.  We didn't realize how close together Circular Quay, The Opera House, The Sydney Harbour Bridge, and The Rocks were, just a short walk and you can see them all.  And a few stops on the Light Rail takes you to Darling Harbour, another must-see place.

No shopping got done in Sydney, we didn’t even venture into the main shopping area to visit David Jones or Myers.  Oh no, we were much too busy jumping on and off ferries, trains and the light rail.

So what were the highlights?  The best money we spent on ourselves was upgrading to Premium Economy on the Auckland-Perth leg of our journey.  No where near as posh as flying Business Class, but we were pleasantly surprised at the seating, leg room, attentive service, and just how comfortable those seven and a half hours flying were.  The extra cost might not suit everyone, but for us, it was a good decision.

Best sightseeing trip – the Manly Ferry trip, long anticipated, and Manly Beach was beautiful.

Best wildlife sighting – would have to be those cute quokkas.  Not at all hard to spot on Rottnest Island, as they sat there quietly nibbling on leaves, making them very easy to photograph.  And we were rather impressed with sighting an osprey sitting on it’s huge nest down on the rocky foreshore.

Best Hotel - was the Duxton, in Perth.

Best Meal – at Pan Pacific Hotel in Perth, oh my, those wonderful huge prawns at the buffet.  (This was the hotel our train load of disappointed train travelers were booked into after our trip was cancelled).  We don’t get prawns like these back home in New Zealand, ours are tiny little imported ones.  Mind you, we had a rather memorable meal at “Public House” bar and restaurant in Perth, which would come a close second.

So now we are safely home we have got out of holiday mode where we discussed “where shall we go for dinner tonight?”.  We are now back in every-day life mode where the question is “what shall I cook for dinner tonight?”.  We had a great time, but it’s always nice to arrive home safely again at the end of the holiday, isn’t it?  Back to your own bed, and welcoming little Gemma back home again.  She got a present, a tiny soft kangaroo, which she swats around the floor, chasing it here and there.  We are sure she has grown while we’ve been away, and she has settled back nicely after spending time with the breeder.

Gemma and her baby kangaroo

Sunday, 26 August 2018

Time to gome Home

Our time in Aussie had come to an end.  Another early morning start, much too early for the hotel restaurant to be open, so we only had a cuppa in our room.  Never mind, we are sure to be eating on the plane.  The taxi arrived promptly and whizzed us to the airport, a much quicker trip this time being Saturday morning with not so much traffic around as the night we arrived.  Sydney Airport is rather big and bustling, full with tourists all looking for their particular carriers to book in with.  As we were, and being Murphy’s Law, the Air New Zealand stand was right down the other end of the concourse.  A nice young staff member stepped forward to help us out on the machines – no doubt we were looking rather harassed and elderly by this stage. 

With our big bags handed over we then went through the very busy security area: slide passport in, stand on the yellow feet on the floor, look up, and flash, photo taken.  Put bags, jackets, everything in your pockets onto the trays to be x-rayed, and finally we were through.  The only thing left to do was to go and wait by our boarding gate, pick up a coffee and a paper to while away the time, and wait for the boarding call.  And there’s our plane, waiting for us, to whisk us home to New Zealand.  And yes, we did have lunch on the plane, but we had to pre-order (and pay) when we booked our flights.  Obviously, there is no such thing as a free lunch on these shorter flights.

 Landing at Auckland Airport we collected our bags and caught the free bus to the Domestic Terminal.  More waiting, of course, but that’s what air travel is all about, isn’t it.  Our last plane ride of our trip was taking us to Palmerston North, no air bridge for these regional flights, but a brisk walk over the tarmac, and up the metal steps to board the flight.

It was dark and cold by the time we landed and collected the car from the Long Term Storage area.  Once in our little home town we just needed a trip to the supermarket to pick up some milk and something quick for tea, and we were finally home.  Holidays are great, but it’s always good to come home safely again.  For some added insurance, we had packed a folding walking stick after hurting my knee and needing a visit to the hospital previously in Australia.  And we are pleased to report, that just because we had taken it with us, we didn’t need it.  Just as we had hoped.

Friday, 24 August 2018

Rain at The Rocks

Sitting in a window seat at the hotel restaurant we watched as all the workers scurried this way and that in the rain, winter coats and jackets on, umbrellas up, and walking along briskly as they were focused on their phones.  No need for us to feel so smug as we sat enjoying the last of our breakfast, with no coats packed, we had to make a quick dash over the road in the rain to  Central Station.  A few stations along the line we alighted at Circular

Everyone who has visited Sydney raved about “The Rocks” so we went to check it out. But first, let’s have another look at the view on Circular Quay again, there’s always such a lot going on with all the ferries arriving and departing.

There were several of these birds at the Quay looking for food scraps, which can’t be good for them.  Don’t know what they are, but someone is sure to know.  There are signs up everywhere saying “Don’t feed the birds” but when people leave their rubbish around, it’s easy pickings for them.

A short walk in the drizzle and we arrived at The Rocks, originally a working class area.  And yes, there are plenty of rocks around.  People power saved this area from the bulldozers and redevelopment in the 70s, as the local community was concerned about being moved out of The Rocks, a place they and their families had been living in for generations. They called on the trade union movement and prominent Sydney personalities to help them save The Rocks. 'Green Bans' were imposed on the redevelopment of The Rocks, to be lifted only when residents were to receive assurance from the NSW Government that local people would be rehoused in the area.  In 1975, a compromise was reached and the bans were lifted. All buildings north of the Cahill Expressway were to be retained, conserved and restored.

“First Impressions” by Bud Dumas is a wonderful three sided sandstone relief sculpture symbolising the origins and settlement of the colony, showing a soldier, a convict, and a family of settlers. 

We escaped the drizzle with a visit to The Rocks Discovery Museum, telling of the history of the area.  The continuous loop films were most interesting, and covered the indigenous people, first arrivals, building the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and the protests to save the area.  And did you know that Sydney’s streets were successfully paved in hardwood slabs to combat the dust and mud?

It was lucky we visited on a Friday, as all the Food Stalls were up and running, and doing tremendous business.  The place was packed with visitors, all looking for tasty “street food”.  What a fun place to be.

Thursday, 23 August 2018

More Sydney Sightseeing

It’s a busy life being on holiday –  we have to be up, showered,  and down to breakfast in the hotel bright and early before we head out the door exploring.  There is such a lot to see in the big bustling city of Sydney, and with just a few days here, we can barely scratch the surface.  And we are becoming quite used to the tap-on, tap-off system of using the public transport system.  Circular Quay is busy, that’s where all the many ferries leave from, going to places far and wide, and we have already taken a couple of ferry rides.

Circular Quay

But to me, Circular Quay is forever associated by the haunting song written by Eric Bogle, “And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda”, written about the Gallipoli Campaign.  Part of the song goes:

So they gathered the crippled, the wounded, the maimed, and they shipped us back home to Australia.
The legless, the armless, the blind, the insane, those proud wounded heroes of Suvla
And as our ship pulled into Circular Quay, I looked at the place where me legs used to be.
And thanked Christ there was nobody waiting for me, to grieve, to mourn, and to pity.
But the band played Waltzing Matilda, as they carried us down the gangway.
But nobody cheered, they just stood and stared, then they turned all their faces away

Now back to travel adventures – we discovered that we could take a train ride across the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and that sounded like fun.  Alighting at Milsons Point, we got a good “up close” view of the bridge from another angle.  People pay good money to walk up this bridge, and we have seen them from afar, looking like tiny ants right up the top of the curve.

Sydney Harbour Bridge, from Milsons Point

It was a different mode of transport today, we boarded the Light Rail to Darling Harbour.  Bright red and shiny, it left just across the road outside Central Station.  We need some of these back home!

Light Rail train

Darling Harbour is a very trendy place, lots of hotels, restaurants and bars on the water’s edge, and surrounded by towering skyscrapers.  Busy during the day, and sure to be even busier in the evenings when people come out to dine.  We had a good look around, saw two policemen on bike duty, droves of tourists wandering around, and had some lunch in the Harbourside Shopping Centre.

Darling Harbour

What’s this?  We found The British Lolly Shop, so had a look in there.  Mind you, we were very restrained and just purchased a couple of Fry's Chocolate Cream Bars.  There was too much choice in all those packets and jars to get anything else.

We did the tiniest bit of shopping here 

Walking back over the Prymont Bridge was interesting.  Pyrmont Bridge, designed by Percy Allan,  is one of the world's oldest surviving electrically operated swing-span bridges. The first bridge began operating in 1857 and the current swing-span bridge opened in 1902. The bridge provided the main transport route between the city and Sydney's growing western suburbs while the swing-span allowed tall vessels to access Darling Harbour.  In 1981 the bridge was closed to all pedestrian and vehicular traffic, reopening for pedestrians in 1988 after  Darling Harbour redevelopment is completed and the precinct opens to the public.  The bridge is generally opened for demonstrations on weekends and public holidays – wouldn’t that be wonderful to see.

The Prymont Bridge

We stopped off at Paddy’s Market on the way back to the hotel.  If you wanted cheap bling, this was the place to be, stall after stall of similar goods.  Robin was offered a massage, but he turned the girls down.  So that’s our sightseeing for another day.  It will be our last day in Sydney tomorrow, and we fly home on Saturday.  

Wednesday, 22 August 2018

The Manly Ferry, and on to Parramatta

We arrived in Sydney at around midnight on Monday, happy to arrive safe and sound and finally get to bed to rest our weary bones.  The hotel is ideally placed just across the road from buses and Central Station, the  largest and busiest railway station in New South Wales.   So we got ourselves an Opal Card each and started exploring.  A few stops down the line, and we were at Circular Quay.

 Rendezvous Hotel
Central Station

Having a ride on the Manly Ferry was high on our list of things to do.  There they were, all yellow and pudgy just as we had imagined them, not at all like the sleek fast ferries docked beside them.  We climbed aboard, and headed over to Manly.

The Manly Ferry

We passed by the famous Sydney Opera House.

30 minutes later, we arrived at Manly Wharf

The Corso, Manly

Manly Beach was perfect – golden sand and warm sun.  We sat in the sunshine watching the world go by, plus the joggers, the dog walkers, the young Mum’s with strollers, and all those tourists taking selfies.
 Manly Beach

After lunch, on our walk back to the ferry terminal, we came across a whole lot of Sulphur crested cockatoos, looks like they were sharing lunch with the young woman sitting in the park.

As we approached the Sydney skyline we pondered what to do with the rest of the day.  Why not take another ferry ride?

So we did – going in another direction across the harbour, this time to Parramatta.

Evonne Goolagong ferry took us to Parramatta

This was quite a different, longer trip, which had plenty of stops along the way, and the latter part of the journey took us up the Parramatta River, where we saw  pelican happily swimming by.  It was rather like being in tropics, with mangroves lining the river banks.

On the Parramatta River

Back on board for our return trip, we had to take the obligatory selfie, just like any self respecting tourist.  This isn’t easy to do with an ordinary camera, I can tell you!

Arriving back at the wharf at 5.00pm, we joined up with all the workers hurrying home as we boarded the train back to our station.  We can’t fault the public transport here in Sydney, and especially the Opal Cards.  With a daily cap of $15.80 on our adult cards, (we didn’t qualify for a concession card as we are not residents here) about half of our travel was free.

We would like to acknowledge Paul and his beloved late wife Elaine, who kept us entertained blogging about their adventures on The Manly Ferry Blog at  Paul is having health issues and we wish him all the best, and want him to know that these two Kiwis have finally ridden a real life Manly Ferry.

PS:  Our computer is misbehaving and we are having trouble posting this blog - hope all will be resolved soon.

Tuesday, 21 August 2018

What can we say but B*#?*#

And it all started out so well – our long awaited train trip on the Indian Pacific, so named because the rail trip goes from across Australia from one ocean to the other.  We joined the throngs at Perth Station and met up with our travelling companions Dot and Derek, checked our big bags into the baggage wagon, and took our smaller bags into our room.  There's just time to get one of the staff to take our photo as we posed outside on the platform.

Happy Travellers

And this is our small room – the top bunk gets pulled down at night when the beds get made up.  With a small bathroom too, this is just what we had when we rode on the Ghan train (Adelaide to Darwin) in 2016.

Our cabin

The Indian Pacific train pulled way from Perth Station bang on time at 10.00am, leaving Australia’s most remote capital city behind.  We went slowly through the suburbs, soon reaching the outskirts of Perth, and the countryside.

Out in the country

Happy people all met in the Lounge car, everyone looking forward to 4 days of travelling and adventure.  Coffee, beer, wine, or in my case, lemon, lime, and bitters, were sipped as we got to know the other passengers and waited for the call to lunch, our first meal onboard.  The train had stopped at Avon, with huge wheat silos towering over us on one side, and rows of empty wagons on sidings on the other.

Wheat silos at Avon

While the train was stopped, the lunch service commenced, and we were ushered into the dining cart, sharing a table with Dot and Derek.  The choices were Beetroot Tart, Caesar Salad or Monkfish, followed by dessert, all very tasty.


Queen Adelaide Restaurant

Back in the Lounge Car for a coffee, we were starting to wonder why the train was still stationary.  Perhaps a freight train was coming through?  Then it was finally announced that there had been a serious incident further up the line where a freight train of  two locos and four carriages had derailed, badly damaging the track.  As repairs to the track would take several days, or even longer, our journey was cancelled, and the train was returning to Perth.  What a disappointment, we could hardly believe what we were being told.

The train manager and all the staff were full of apologies as we all discussed what on earth we would do now.  During the afternoon further announcements were made – accommodation would be found for us all, plus the cost of an evening meal and breakfast.  That was one weight off our minds.  Matt, the entertainer kept or spirits up as he strummed his guitar and we all sung along.  As he sang the first line of the Kenny Rodger’s hit song, The Gambler, he commented that the song was rather prophetic.  The words go “On a warm summer's evening on a train bound for nowhere…..”  So true.

Matt the train singer

Buses were waiting at Perth Station to take us to the hotel for the night, Pan Pacific.  You can imagine the time it took to get everyone off the buses, luggage collected, and then we all had to queue up to register, 90 rooms we were told.  By this stage the hotel had been advised of our names and the dealt with us all as quickly as they could.  Likewise, the hotel restaurant manager did her best to get us seated for dinner as soon as tables became available.  With a $50 voucher each for a meal, she decided to cut the price of the sumptuous buffet from $55 to $50 for all of us from the train.  “You have been through so much”, she told us, as we went to pay the extra. How kind was that!

During the night the management and staff of Indian Pacific were working hard trying to find a solution to the next part of the problem, how to get us to our destinations of the train trip, Adelaide or Sydney.  A letter was delivered to us all announcing that flights had been arranged and buses would be available to take us to the airport.  The following morning we were all given our final flight details, and it was announced that we would all get a full refund for the cost of our aborted rail trip.  I was too disappointed to take photos during our extra time in Perth, most of it was spent waiting for the buses.

Although badly disappointed, we were impressed with all the work that went on behind the scenes dealing with a train full of passengers.  Our travel agent managed to book us two nights in our Sydney hotel prior to our expected arrival, (at our cost) so all that was taken care of.  We will have 5 days in Sydney instead of 3 originally planned.

Our extra flight, Perth to Sydney

To top it all off, the collapsible pull handle broke off Robin’s suit case, so he had to lug it all through the airport.  Then he forgot to pack his Swiss Army knife safely away in his checked luggage, so it was confiscated at security.  We finally arrived at our hotel in Sydney close to midnight.  Straight to bed, it must be a better day in the morning.

Saturday, 18 August 2018

Oliver Hill Gun Fortifications

On our second day on Rottnest Island we took the Oliver Hill Train and Tunnel Tour.  A group of us climbed aboard “Captain Hussey” the trolley tram at “The Settlement” station, and the train then slowly chugged up the hill to the fort.

All aboard the Captain Hussey

In the lead-up to WW2 Capt. Hussey was seconded from the Army to oversee the construction of the railway on Rottnest (from Kingston Barracks to Oliver Hill), to transport heavy guns up to Oliver Hill.


Oliver Hill Battery is the most intact of all Australian 9.2” gun batteries, and one of only five battery sites worldwide that still retain guns in their WWII location, and is a prominent landmark in the natural landscape of Rottnest Island.


When Darwin and Broome were bombed in 1942 the Japanese navy were expected to arrive soon.  The Fremantle Fortress stood as the next line of defence and the 9.2 inch guns at Oliver Hill earned Rottnest Island the title of “Gatekeeper”.  The island reached it’s maximum military strength with 2,500 military personnel stationed in the island.  The fortifications and tunnels were built (four stories deep)  after removing a huge amount of sand, and when complete covered over in sand again.


In 2010 the structure was awarded Engineering Australia’s highest accolade, the Engineering Heritage National Landmark Award for significant technical achievement.


Our guide gave us a detailed story of how the huge gun worked, and although not a shot was fired in anger, it was thought to be a major deterrent for enemy forces attacking Fremantle and Perth.


The mighty 9.2in projectile

We walked down into the depths along the steep and narrow concrete tunnels to storage areas and the power room.  Our guide played an audio of just how noisy it was down there when generators were running.  They supplied power, compressed air for cleaning out the barrel after each firing and hydraulic fluid for moving the gun around.  The big gun needed an 11 man crew to operate it, plus another crew on standby.  It was certainly a very interesting tour.  Back in the fresh air again we boarded the train for our return trip back.


Back at The Settlement we got another quokka fix, this time with a little family of quokkas.  Baby was staying very close to Mum, as they fossicked around, looking for something to nibble on.  Tourists are strictly discouraged from offering them food, as it is upsetting their health, or touching them. 

Quokka family

Our time at Rottnest Island was at an end, the ferry was arriving to take us back for two more nights in Perth, before we board the Indian Pacific train for our epic journey to Sydney.