Thursday Tram and a Bike

We went to the Queen Victoria Market. It was a 15 minute walk. The sky was blue and cloudless and the temperature perfect. Yoga and holding a cup. Ultimate multitasker?

We stopped in the cured and preserved part of the market first, saw all the delicious cheeses, meats and antipasti items. The cheese guy was so fun that we bought his cheese.

Then we hopped on the tram, then off and then back on!

Sometimes it hard to decipher the directions…. we wanted to go South to St. Kilda Beach where we reserved some bikes. Just a little confusion on the way. The bike shop was near this amusement park similar to the one in San Diego’s Balboa Park.

We got the bikes and started to bike south towards Brighton Beach.

There are the famous Brighton Boxes. They are over 100 years old, never sold to an outside and go for over $350.000 each, without water or electricity!Time for lunch. We just headed inland and Megan found a great place. They let us bring our bikes in. More great food!Back to the bike shop with a short people watching stop

Thursday February 13, 2020

Today we venture out to Queen Victoria Market and then we will take a tram to go bike riding.

We had a chatty Uber driver from Somalia. He seemed a little shy to say that he was from Somalia until I told them that he had been there. He quickly realized that we weren’t the typical short sighted Americans. He then told us that he and his family fled to Qatar when he was very young. They felt comfortable there because there were many other Africans there too. He had been in Melbourne for a while. He dropped us off on a corner and told us that the hotel was in the Mall. Hmmm where? Megan pulled her GPS out and we found it very quickly. It was a very basic hotel, maybe a dorm or former boarding house. We would rather spend money on food and booze and experiences than a better rooms. But this barely covers the basics.

The view! But it’s quiet. The A/C doesn’t work well but the shower does. Hopefully we are preparing for smaller quarters with a camper van in Tasmania.

We briefly checked out a map and set out to wander. So many races, ages, sizes, shapes. It’s very diverse and quite a few homeless. We walked towards the river but then decided that we were hungry. We have both experienced issues with GPS sending us completely in the wrong direction and this happened again but we corrected it and headed to a Spanish Tapas restaurant called Movida. It is located on a famous street, called Hosier Lane, with graffiti and art. Apparently the art was covered by graffiti to protest the art. What? We sat at the bar. This was a pretty popular place with no reservations available. We ordered some red Spanish wine that was fantastic and some appetizers.

We were so impressed by the food, fantastic olives and croquettes. Loved cold smoked swordfish with pine nut gazpacho sorbet and the chickpea tortilla with baba ganash and parsley salad. As we rolled out of the restaurant we realized it was way too early to go to the hotelStopped at a bar with live music and had a little more wine. Great basement atmosphere. Still light out! We decide to stop for a couple things like broccoli and vodka and then we had a miscommunication! Megan thought I left and I thought she had a diabetic coma! Lol. Finally I texted her and she was at the hotel. I had been looking for lotion and probably crouched down or in the designated alcohol area where only one person could be in at a time. It’s always good to have a meet up plan if you separate. Back to the hotel for an early night.

Wednesday Melbourne

Another freezing cold night. The A/C is either on or off, no in between. The room brochure said that the A/C would turn off during the day so we were happy that it stayed on all day and happier to come back to a cold room. No blankets in the room so I put my jackets on top of me to sleep, mostly because of the draft of the air, not the cold.

Early morning wake up at 6. Nice to have a coffee pot in the room. We drove the beautiful Captain Cook drive which we didn’t know before but it’s the most beautiful stretch of Highway in Australia. And it was! Megan drives on the wrong side of the road well! Luckily, we left early because there was traffic going into Cairns. At check in, at the airport and we had to check bags, which we hate, and they informed us that the flight was delayed an hour. That was great because we wanted to eat something. They when we got our food, they announced that it would be leaving sooner. We had plenty of time. Now on the way to Melbourne. We spent too much time yesterday trying to decide where to stay but we chose the Central Business district. Our plan was to take public transportation into the city and be close to a stop but the cost of two tickets vs an Uber is very little. We like to use the ap Rome to Rio which now is a part of

We hope to see some live music in Melbourne and see a few of the sights.

“A Wicked Idea….”

That was the suggestion from our Hostel Host, Ray at 5:30pm…..and the way he said it, and the long pause after was strange….he wanted us to meet him just outside the lobby for drinks.That is ice in the Tupperware, thank you Ray. He has managed the hostel for about a year and loves it. He’s a bit too friendly, or is that just me being suspicious and cautious? We tried to get out of the situation by walking to the Port Douglas Yacht Club, after that I took a quick swim in the salt water pool, and Megan took a nap.

We remembered on the walk to the YC that one of the sides of the road had crocodiles and the other side didn’t,  but couldn’t remember which one was which. The Yacht club was very close, so we didn’t worry too much. As we arrived they told us that they were closing soon and that the kitchen was closed. We could get a drink though. Megan had a local beer and I had a local rum and Coca-Cola Zero. Mine was almost undrinkable. We sat on some bar stools overlooking the docks and the marina that we had been at the day before. It was a beautiful sunset and fun to watch the boats come in.

On our way back, no crocodiles, but huge mosquitoes were biting us. No sign of Ray when we got back, so we hid in our room but, sure enough, Ray soon knocked on the door with more ice. We had to join him. He moved a table so that we could be under the fan. A couple from Great Britain joined us and we all had a drink or two. They were nice, very well traveled and pleasant to talk to. Ray was still a little uncomfortable to me but enjoyed talking to his customers.

Megan and I headed to pack and get some sleep.

Mossman Gorge February 11, 2020

Last night we had a great dinner at the recommendation of our hostel host, on the inlet. We sat outside, it was hot but the fans were ok. When this town is busy, it must be crowded. There are so many shops and places to eat. The restaurant was full but there was still more room upstairs. We actually had service, albeit not great! Our waitress hadn’t eaten any of the food, so she couldn’t tell us about much. Megan has a tuna steak and I has a while fish. Both were perfect.

Drove back to a nice well air conditioned room. In fact it was a little too cool in the night, but needed to use my big black shawl that U always travel with.

In the morning, I had coffee again on the little veranda, did a little reading and writing. No more Vegemite or bread. Just a little peanut butter and fruit.

There are 20+ waterfalls in the area. We decided on one with a hike in the tropical rainforest. Mossman Gorge, about 20 minutes away. Disappointment set in when we were told that we couldn’t swim under any circumstances because of the crocodiles and the flash flood warnings. I hate to be disappointed! So we took the longer hike and were amazed by the foliage and beautiful rain forest.The hike was beautiful, hot BBC and humid as expected There was some climbing! And some swinging.And finally some swimming in the forbidden waters!And then a little lunch at the Exchange Hotel in Mossman. A been and some food!

We had several more things to do here like swim in the ropes of area of the beach. It was to protect from the deadly stingers. What? A beautiful four mile beach and only a tiny spot to swim. Kinda crazy. Next the salt water pool and probably a little nap.

Day Two Great Barrier Reef

This has been a bucket/lust list thing for me so long. I am so pretty excited. I started the day with a little coffee on the little patio. It’s very peaceful! Then a little continental breakfast.

They had a continental breakfast including the famous Vegemite developed during WW1 rationing.

We drove a few minutes to the Port Douglas Marina and found the boat without too much trouble. It is late summer here so less busy tourist than usual. There are about 20 large catamarans that could have up to 80 passengers on hear ship. There were maybe 25 people aboard. There were several dive groups on board, the majority of divers being beginners. My group was just me and a man from South Dakota named Richard. Our guide was from Israel. We were briefed and after a 40 min boat ride we were at the edge of the reef. The gear seemed to be in good condition and we wore “stinger suits”. They were to protect us from tiny stinging jellyfish and the sun. They were like rash guards with hoods and mittens. The water temperature was perfect. I was never cold. We jumped in. They were very safety conscious, more so than any other dive shop that I have been to before. The dives were awesome. We did three. While I was diving, Megan was snorkeling. A lot of the coral was dead due to the environmental conditions like the sun baking down on it and man affected. My favorite creature was the giant clam. The colors were like a psychedelic masterpiece. So many color combinations. The usual tropical fish, some new, sone that O have seen before. I spied two white tipped reef sharks about 8 feet in length.

The boat ride back was relaxing g with a few Coronas

Irish Pub in Port Douglas

Now at the Irish Pub of Port Douglas, Paddys! At the Cairns airport, I knew that I would be waiting a few hours for Megan. I was a little hungry. I don’t usually eat the airplane food. Sometimes I even bring some raw veggies but I knew no vegetables or fruits could be brought it. I did bring some toasted walnuts mixed with coconut and a little dark chocolate.

I left the arrivals area and I go into the baggage claim area. No ac here and it was hot. I sat down and figured out a car. Got a great deal of $7 per day. Although not really trusting that quote as it never happens that way, but it actually did. I went up to the car counter and checked on the car, yes it would be ready. There wasn’t any place to have a coffee or drink or food. Someone suggested an outside place. I ordered some Rose but needed food. I saw the international terminal was close by. I had changed into shorts but it was still very hot and very humid. The international terminal was completely empty so I trudged back to the domestic terminal. Asked a nice airport terminal if I could get back into the arrivals area since there were many restaurants and shops. He said just go to the entrance and go through security. Simple. Walked around a bit. Had some calimari and another rose. To get served you need to order and pay at the bar area and then they bring it to you. Did some reading then walked around. Not ready to shop, as if I ever am! Found a little coffee shop by the entrance to the baggage claim so I could see Megan. Sure enough she texted me that she had landed and we went to get her luggage and the car.

Coffee here is very good and serves extremely hot.

The car was as expected, no surprises and we took off for Port Douglas. Several people had told us that Cairns was too big and too commercial and that we should go to Port Douglas. First things first, we were on the lookout for a adult beverage store. Megan knew they had a special name but couldn’t remember it yet. The roads were two way, on the wrong side of the road. She likes to drive and I like to navigate so it works for us. The drive was beautiful, jungle meets water, Rainforest meets reef. Finally we saw a “Bottle shop” and the clerks couldn’t have been funnier or friendlier. They helped us with our purchases, wine and New Zealand vodka and soda.

We could our hotel/hostel easily where the host was super friendly too. The place was a little like some of the motels on the way from Wisconsin to Florida that I remember from childhood. Two beds, clean, private bathroom and working ac. That is all that we require. It has a small pool and is about a 20 minute walk from the town. A hot and sweaty walk through a neighborhood on one side and a jungle on the other.

Kinda quite on a Sunday early evening, but we found the Irish Pub and hoped to cool off there.

We ordered from the bar, now we knew what to do. Had some yummy Mango Mojitos.We split some spaghetti with olives and garlic and sausage and some fries with cheese and pork. Perfect food!

Uber, yes, Uber back to the hotel and off to sleep.

Cairns Airport

I am at the Cairns airport waiting for Megan. She is in the air which is good! She arrived in Sydney as I was leaving for Cairns. Her messages were not hopeful. She had issues in the Sydney airport too, as I did, then had to check and pay for her bag and was delayed on the tarmac. Luckily, WiFi is better in airports so I could look up her flight info and see that she was on her way. I am waiting outside the airport having a glass of wine.

Very similar to the start of yesterday, or rather Friday when I left San Diego.

I chose my flight, knowing that it would go to Dallas first with a three hour layover and then a direct flight to Sydney. The other routes with miles, had worse connections and longer layovers. I ended up with a window seat, thank God and next to some fun 21year olds that were spending a semester abroad I New Zealand! What what fun they were going to have. I was so happy that my son, George spent a semester in Budapest.

Since it was a 19 hour flight, I knew that I needed to stay awake along as possible. One of the things I love about long flights is that I catch up on reading, I can read a complete novel at one sitting. I like to write in my journal, although this mostly works for that. And I get to watch movies. As I looked around I saw no one with a book, other than me! Also about 10 % of the people on the planes had masks on. Too bad they don’t realize that the coronavirus can penetrate masks, but I brought some too.

As usual, Megan and I don’t have much planned. I just rented a car for the next three days. When she gets here we will drive to Port Douglas. Is just over an hour away. She’ll be the driver and I will navigate. Just saw that there are 140 steps to get to the hotel, and on the map it looks like a straight line!

So Sydney airport was confusing. Friday morning Megan sent me a text asking if I filled out the visa application?!? Last time I checked We didn’t need one but I filled it out. It was a very aggravating site but finally got the response. I got off the plane, followed the masses and then the signs were confusing: choice of Australian/New Zealander or All or evisa. I saw people lining up a kiosk for the evisa, so I thought that maybe that was what I had. Eventually I saw that those people had a different ticket, so I got in the All others line. The lines were very long and many people missed their connections. It’s best to chose the lines closest to the crew and diplomat lines because as soon as all of those people are in, they take the overflow.

I had brought some snacks, because I hate eating the garbage at rest stops etc. There were announcements every few minutes about having a fever and sore throat because of Coronavirus, and they wanted to be sure that we didn’t bring any food or plant items. I had learned my lesson in Tonga so I changed my answer to the question about food from no to yes. Diverted to line 2. Then they just asked what I had. They did not want the chicken jerky in their country, but date balls and nuts were ok.

I must have missed the sign that said Quantas transfers… I was wandering the airport, looking for some coffee and checking the signs about for my gate. No flights. Finally I asked someone where Quantas was and they pointed down the way. Asked again and they said down there to the windows, down the escalator and onto the bus. I had plenty of time but glad that I hadn’t stopped earlier.

Arrived In Australia Today

I spend a lot of time reading on long flights and this quote holds special meaning for me, an elaboration on my personal motto, Everyday is a Holiday. It’s from my mentor and friend, Scott Manning: “This is the beginning of a new day. You have been given this day to use as you will. You can waste it or use it for good. What you do today is important because you are exchanging a day of your life for it. When tomorrow comes, this day will be gone forever. In it’s place is something that you have left behind. Let it be something good.”