Friday, 13 January 2017

90 days in Australia, an overview...

Ry, Phillips Bay near Melbourne

Emerald Beach near Coffs Harbour
Today, and on the eve of our departure from this  stunning and massive country, we wanted to take the time to share with you the highlights of our 90 days (that’s right, we wanted to use every single one of the permitted 90 days from our visitors visa!)

Galas, Perth
Didgeridoo player, Sydney

Entering Australia importing and selling the boat  ! 

We had a few decisions to make early on, and, from all evidence, we feel that we made the right choices on all counts:

First, for the Port of Entry:  We knew from experience that, at times in can be a challenge for sailors to undergo the complex checking in process into Australia. There are many hoops to jumps through and the immigration/customs agents have a reputation of being extremely diligent. (with good reason given the many vulnerable ecosystems at risk) We chose to enter through the “back door”...the smaller community of Bundeberg, (or just “Bundy”,as Aussies like to shorten everything!)  

Bundy has a reputation of having friendly and no non-sense customs agents. This was very much what we experienced on October 17th when we arrived. After days of scrubbing, cleaning, purging, getting rid of fresh foods and dairy products, after having used alot of bug spray everywhere...and after having  read and re read all of the rules and regulations we were feeling a little bit nervous ...even if we knew that Amelie didn’t have any pests or bugs or any such nuisances on board  , we still collectively kind of held our breath until the very last agent walked off the boat , and with a kind smile and warm welcome , granted us 
permission to enter- PHEW .....we all went for a celebratory dinner on shore where MC wept a few tears of pure joy and relief !

 Second was the decision to put the boat up for sale in Brisbane. Being a blue water boat, we’d heard that the best place to sell would be in Queensland because the brokers in Sydney are more geared towards coastal and racing boats. We feel that our broker in Scarborough marina did a very good job of advertising Amelie for what she was : a solid and comfortable vessel ready for travel across oceans ! 

By the time we (finally) got her officially imported into Australia (a necessary expense for putting her up for sale here), it took less than a week before we had an offer and only 18 days later, the deal was done !  Amelie was sold !  We were in Melbourne by this time and it was a relief to have it all settled before leaving Australia. Mark only had  to travel the short distance from Sydney to Brisbane to participate in the sea trial and help with the transition to the new owners. It was very nice for the whole crew  to be told that Angus and his wife were very excited about acquiring her, as happy as we had been 4 years before. How did it feel you ask ? I would say that it was all very bitter sweet but GRATITUDE was the foremost emotion for us all. 

The long and winding East Coast. 

After spending nearly 5 weeks in Brisbane, getting the boat ready and preparing or shipment for Canada (36 boxes!)...

Our shipment …almost ready to go….

 ...we four , now homeless crew, hoped into a rental car and started driving South. Taking our time to stop to have a look around, often, it took us 5 and 1/2 days to travel the  950 km distance to Sydney in New South Wales. 
Port Macquarie
Port Macquarie Koala hospital

Surfer's Paradise
Australia is well know for its beautiful coast line which we saw alot of as we drove...stopping at such renowned places as Surfer’s Paradise, Byron Bay we also stopped at Coffs Harbour, Port Macquarie and Port Stevens. 

Porth Stevens

Byron Bay


Emerald Beach, near Coffs Harbour
Emerald Beach at sunset

Port Stevens
Port Stevens
Port Stevens

Port Stevens

Our last stop before arriving in Sydney was “The Entrance” only an hour or so out of Sydney, this sea side town is known as the “Pelican Capital of the World “. Everyday at 3:00 pm a rather large gathering of these magnificent birds come to get their share of fish. This all started many years ago when the local sea food restaurant would throw out their scraps, everyday at the same time attracting the nearby pelicans. 

One day,  when they were late putting out the fish, the owner of the restaurant found that a large group had gathered outside and were waiting. Since that day, wild pelicans have been coming, in droves, at the same time everyday, and the local community has now used this as an opportunity to educate people about Australian pelicans and also to use these occasions to keep an eye on the health and wellbeing of these giant birds. We really enjoyed participating in the feeding and, as you can see, we got lots of close up shots ! 
This one reminds me of an MC Escher drawing ! 

Another day, another great view of the coast line….


The view from the top of one of the Sydney Harbour Bridge Pylons

We were very excited when we finally arrived in Sydney, there were so many things we looked forward to discovering with the kids !  We were also curious to see how much of it was still as we remembered it from when we were last there in 1998.
Matthew onboard the Endevour (replica)
Maritime Museum, Darling Harbour 

What can we say ? Sydney is great much to see and do !  Highlights were: Darling Harbour, taking a tour of the Opera House (truly worth all the Hype!), climbing up and visiting the harbour bridge pylon museum, taking a cruise in the harbour, the maritime museum and climbing onboard a real life navy submarine and having a laugh at Madame Tussault Wax museum. 
First Lady (carried Kay Cottee first woman who sailed around the world non stop)
 Displayed in Sydney's Maritime Museum- we got to visit inside !

Sydney Fish Market

Having fun at Madame Tussaults Wax Museum, Darling Harbour

Being enchanted by and shopping in the historic “Rocks district” and climbing up to see 'The Gap' (where Sydney harbour meets the Pacific Ocean) were also sites which were really appreciated !  We thought it appropriate to get Meg up on a surf board at historic Manly beach...and the kids also enjoyed a swim at Bondi beach (where MC learned how to properly pronounce the name, she had been saying wrong all this time: It is pronounced “Bondai”  NOT “Bondee” for those who care to know). 
Meg learning to surf at Manly Beach, Sydney

Circular Quays and the Harbour Bridge
Darling Harbour
Boarding a submarine, Sydney Maritime Museum

The most memorable evening, we got to spend as a family, was the one we shared with old friends  from our Jakarta days. Tim and Francine and their three children. Their daughter Lara, was a playmate of Matthew’s, back when he was a toddler and it was really lovely to see them all.  It brought back all sorts of happy memories of the early days in the lives of our children. Another wonderful reunion was when MC got to spend a magical  star filled evening, sipping drinks by the majestic opera house with her dear friend Tracey, whom she had not seen since their teaching days together in Perth in 1997 ! 

The long and winding East Coast  (part two)

We left Sydney, splitting ourselves in two different directions: Mark heading North (flying), back to Brisbane to do Amelie’s  sea trial with Angus and Rob (our broker), MC and the kids continuing with the drive South, along the scenic Great Ocean Road...for the 1380 km journey towards Melbourne. Being in no hurry, we took 8 days, stopping 3-4 times a day to take in the breathtaking views of vast  and empty coast line, going for hikes and  stopping at any tourist site that tickled our fancy.

We stayed off the main highway for most of it, taking the quiet scenic roads as much as possible, only getting lost once or twice....but always making it to our cabins or hostels by dinner time. The highlights were: seeing a tiny echidna crossing the road ahead of us, stopping at Kiama Blow hole and swimming in the natural pools there,the colours of Ben Boyds National Park...

Ben Boyd National Parks
Getting wet in the natural pool at Kiama Blow Hole

Swimming at "The Prom"

Visiting a 19th century gold mine in Mogo. in a 19th century village (Central Tilba), visiting an old gold mine, walking through the wetlands in Sale, hiking at “The Prom” (Wilson’s Promontory), and visiting Phillips Island, spotting a few of the residents Little Penguins and learning a whole lot about the Antartic in the excellent exhibit put on by the World Wild Life Federation: All three of us were wowed as we walked surrounded by giant screens with sensational images of this glacial  continent ...we also got a real kick out of the Virtual Reality Experience which made it look like we were up close and personal with killer whales, seals and penguins ! 
In case you wondered the difference between a Kangaroo and a Wallaby…this little fellow is a wallaby….note how he uses his hands to eat (Roos do not) ! Phillip Island
Kangaroo with large joey in her pouch !  

Phillip Island
Phillip Island

The last stop before Melbourne was a delicious stop at Panny’s Chocolate Factory, which, of course, was amazing ! 
Panny chocolate Factory, Phillip Island
Virtual Reality, Antartic Exhibit, Phillip Island

Experiencing the Antarctic , (Virtual Reality)

Brighton Beach Bath Houses
Downtown graffiti 
Aussie's really do like to shorten everything !

Enjoing a "Hannukah hike" with our friends from SV Misbehaving
We arrived in Melbourne in time to soak up the Christmas spirit, and enjoy the company of many of our wonderful cruising friends, some of whom we had not seen since Fiji a year was really a treat for us to get to spend time with each family, and made our Christmas all the more special because of their good company. 

Meg was also interested to witness a real Australian past time: seeing how the Aussie kids spend a whole bunch of their summer holiday: In the ocean, participating in strenuous life saving and swimming programs- No wonder these guys do so well in the summer olympics ! 

Christmas lunch with our friends from SV Seabatical

We were house sitting for a couple of weeks, and got to meet and take care of Norman, a very energetic Pitbull ( Aussies call them Staffies), who kept us giggling and running (and hiding our belongings). Matthew enjoyed all the attention !

Matthew and Norman

We thought that since Australia was a old penal colony, we should we also took an afternoon to go and visit the Old Melbourne Goal, where Meghan was "arrested" ! 

This is NOT the Old Melbourne Goal, this is another Goal, which we saw on our way down from Brisbane.

The tree surfing at the "Enchanted Gardens" near Melbourne

Perth, Western Australia… home again ! 

Nothing prepared us for the emotions we felt as we returned "home" to Perth on the eve of New Years Eve…

It is only once we were there, surrounded by the sights, smells, sounds that it all came rushing back for Mark and I.   For the first 48 hours, the kids had to put up with exclamation after exclamation, as a funny memory would pop into mind as we turned a familiar corner…"This is where we ran out of gas and had to push the car, remember?!", "This is where I used to take the train to go to work!", "This is the restaurant where we used to love to eat"…, "There is our house !   It hasn't changed a bit !" .. "There is the church where we were married!"….. on and on…like little children, we were in awe….Perth will always have one of the most special places in our hearts…and our hearts ached and swelled with emotion everyday. 

Sailing a Hobie Cat on the Swan River, Perth

The Indian Ocean, the hot burning sun, the laid back attitude, the miles and miles of white sandy beaches, the bohemian charm of Fremantle and its many historic buildings, its market…

Matthew meets a resident black swan, Swan River, Perth

….all these filled us with renewed delight, but the best part of Perth, BY FAR, was being able to meet with old friends from another life time. Dave and Lyn, Michele, Lia and James, our sailing instructor and mentor Ian and his wife Deborah, Mark and Isla…all greeted us with open arms and we SO enjoyed sharing our stories and memories with them ! Another treat for our hearts and souls was to see our dear Ronnie again!

 Ronnie, whom we hired all those years ago, as Matthew's first therapist, when we lived in Jakarta.She lived with us for over a year and was there when Meghan was born. Nothing filled my heart more than to be able to share memories with her, reintroduce the kids to her (and meet her own adorable daughter and charming husband) and laugh and reminisce about our journey which all began with her (and Mike, Mark's cousin), almost 16 years ago !  Time flies!

Movie in Kings Park  with Dave, Lyn and their kids 

St Mary Star of the Sea where MC and Mark where married back in 1998
We LOVE this gal !  (Ronnie)

Cottesloe Beach
New Years Sunset Dinner at Cottesloe Beach

ROTTNEST ISLAND…Island of (Cute) 'RATS' !

One fun filled day was when we took the ferry across to Rottnest Island. We hired bikes and spend the day (7 am to 7pm) riding around the quiet road (no cars, only a few tour buses are allowed)…you could  hardly wipe the smile from Matthew's face all day !  Meg loved meeting the resident quokkas (not actually rats, but little marsupials which are endemic to Rottnest)

Meg meeting a resident quokka on Rottnest Island

A full day of cycling on Rottnest Island

Rottnest Island
King Skink, Rottnest Island

Beautiful Rotto

A memorable day riding on Rottnest Island

While we were in Perth we filled our days with activities….going to the beach, sure….but also visiting the excellent King Tut exhibit, going to see a movie under the stars in Kings Park, Meg and MC went to see the excellent production of "Singing in the Rain" with Lyn and her daughter Emma and Mark and MC celebrated their 19th anniversary by visiting the church, anf having dinner at one of our favourite spots near the beach. We are so pleased that we made the jump across Australia to come back to our second home…and we weren't disappointed !

Tomorrow, we leave for Bali Indonesia….our first stop in our South East Asia adventure !

Stay tuned and, as always, thanks for reading!

Lots of love from the 4Ms