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I am one blog entry away from catching up with my travel writing. I have only the trip to Tasmania, which was earlier this year, left to write about. First though our trip up north from Melbourne to the middle of the NSW coastline, and back again. It’s now July 2014.

My capacity for creative thought has been compromised. Why or how, I do not know. I have creative thought but it rarely manifests itself into any form. Maybe I am just being lazy.

2013 was an odd year. I was bored a lot at work, my health has been compromised, and the health of my wife Rebecca who at this moment is recovering from surgery continues to be a concern.

We have had some good news so far this year. There has been a request for Rebecca to have Osseo Integration surgery, which should enable her to walk much more freely. Fingers crossed the surgery is approved and all goes well so that our next adventure reflects the type of trip Rebecca and I used to have before her accident five years ago. In the mean time….

I was required to take twelve of my twenty allocated annual leave days at the Christmas break. We did not want to waste those days sitting around Melbourne, so we decided to drive north.

We departed on the thirtieth of December, first heading to Yea for two nights. On the way to Yea we stopped at our friends Angelo and Catharine’s newly acquired property in Taggerty. We had lunch, and Angelo took me for a tour of the property. Along the way we discussed his plans for the land and future building projects. We also discussed energy. They are ‘off the grid’ and are totally reliant on renewable energy supplied by a wind turbine and solar panels, with batteries for storage. A fine example of how you can survive without being plugged into the national electricity grid.

Ang and CJ's in Taggerty

Ang and CJ’s in Taggerty

It’s a beautiful location and has a splendid view of the Cathedral Ranges. With some hard work the land has some great potential. I personally would not be able to endure the two hours travel into and out of work four days a week. It is a sacrifice Angelo has made so they can bring their daughter Audrey up in the environment they also enjoyed as children. A sacrifice I admire. I would not mind waking up to that view every day.

That evening we spent at our accommodation in Yea, only leaving to have a decent although a little underwhelming meal at the local pub on the Yea high street. I would not recommend it.

Abekye, our accommodation in Yea was fantastic. A wonderful view of the surrounding hills and everything you could need. The kitchen was very well equip, the shower room large, and the bed and couches comfy. The only problem is the location. There is nothing happening in Yea other than the wonderful countryside.

After having a good sleep in, we met meeting our friends Jason and Melinda with their two children for lunch in Alexandra. I had been to the Commercial Hotel once before. Earlier that month in fact, during a Christmas work outing, so I knew that the food was good, and once again they did not disappoint. We spent the afternoon eating, shopping and playing with the kids in the park. It was a great way to spend New Year’s Eve. Yes I am getting old.

New Year’s Eve night I cooked a tasty meal, and sat down for beers, but not before taking some shots as the sun was descending, attempting to catch Yea as it was drenched in orange and red. It was a placid way to end another eventful year.

Yea Sunset

Yea Sunset

New Years day we drove to Australia’s capital, Canberra. It was my first visit. I made it before I turned forty.

The drive to Canberra was around six hours, during which we stopped in Gundagai for lunch. We had stopped at this cafe previously, when it used to be a fish and chip shop. It was good last time we were there four years ago, a little disappointing this time. One thing that did not change was their negative attitude towards non locals, whom you would think they needed for the business to survive. Next time I am stopping elsewhere.

Our host in Canberra at the Rosebud Cottage was Maureen. We could not have asked for a nicer welcome. The cottage is situated on the last working farm in Canberra, which abuts the leafy, winding Canberra suburbs. We once again did not want for anything, and even had fresh bread and jam created by our host.

Cottage in Canberra

Cottage in Canberra

That night we had a little trouble finding a place to eat. Attempting to find somewhere local and inexpensive proved to be a little daunting. It was New Year’s Day after all. We remained calm, and sat in the car using modern mobile technology to find and ring every place suitable, finally locating a Turkish restaurant not too far from our location. The Turkish Pidehouse purposed to be the best Turkish in Canberra. Most of the staff are Italian, and it would not surprise me if they owned the place as well. The meal was good and the staff friendly. We had an interesting chat with our waitress post meal, who kindly informed us a little about Canberra and its clientele.

It was still early so I decided to drive past Parliament House. It was a waste of time really, as you have to drive up the hill, and I drove around instead. We did not see very much, and then proceeded to get lost. Thanks to satellite navigation, we found our way back to the cottage.

Next morning after chef Adrian cooked breakfast we headed to the National Gallery. We had tickets for the Gold and the Incas exhibition. It was remarkable. The skill and precision that went into creating these artifacts is astounding, considering when they were made. It was quite amazing to see. The gallery itself is worth a visit, with many fine pieces and interesting installations.

National Gallery Canberra

National Gallery Canberra

A great stop off after a hard day of pushing your wife around in a wheelchair is the Wig & Pen. It boasted real English Ale from traditional taps. And it did not disappoint. It was great to have real ale at room temperature. Absolutely delicious. We had dinner there also, killing the two with the one, and retired for the night.

At the pub I did overhear some interesting conversations. I suppose that in a capital city one should expect to overhear political, social and economic discussion. I had to refrain from interrupting. Luckily the beer was great distraction.

We departed the next morning. Before leaving our capital city we had one remaining engagement. The National Library was hosting an exhibition of maps from around the world entitled Mapping Our World. Although cramped, we managed to wrangle our way into seeing all the maps. We achieved this by starting at the end, working backwards, and when the crowd caught up, going back to the start again. Rebecca’s view from the wheelchair was not the best, but she managed. Of particular note and a crowd favorite was Fra Mauro’s Map of the World. North is south, and vice versa. It was also very interesting to see Australia form as you moved from the earliest maps of the northern tip to the present century.

National Library Canberra

National Library Canberra

A snack and a few photographs later we were hurling up the highway to Sydney. This is another town where you thank god for the GPS. We found the apartment with only one wrong turn, and after a few trips up and down the elevator I was able to relax in a hot, but soon to be air conditioned apartment. I was exhausted but hungry, and Rebecca’s leg was giving her grief. We looked for somewhere close by to have dinner. Something take away or delivered. After an hour searching with the tablet and phone, ringing places to find they were closed, we finally found Curry on the Rocks, delivery Indian food that you can order over the internet. If you are in central Sydney and cannot be bothered leaving your room, I highly recommend it. Good food, delivered promptly, and at reasonable prices.

Next morning after a breakfast of toast and mini cereal, we were back in the car with the GPS on, attempting a drive over Sydney Harbour Bridge to see our friends Jackie and Tomm. Yes with two m’s. We managed to arrive there with only one wrong turn, again.

We had a great day with our old friends, meeting their new son Sterling, who is right now sapping them both of their remaining life-force. For the first time I can remember, an infant took to me, trusting me unconditionally. Usually babies are very wary, but he thought I was the ant’s pants. I played ball with the little guy, giving mum and dad some welcome relief. I was offered the position of au pair, but it does not pay as well as my current position, so I reluctantly had to turn it down.

Tree and hills

Tree and hills

Navigating our way out of Sydney the following day, we were having a nice cruise up the Pacific Motorway when the traffic came to a screeching halt. After half an hour of crawling along we were reminded why we should be vigilant when driving during the holiday season. All too easy to have an accident, and Rebecca and I have had enough accidents for one lifetime, thank you very much.

We made it to Koorainghat in one piece, and after a long drive down dirt roads, arrived at Kiwarrak Country Retreat. Greeted kindly by our host Meg, we squeezed the car into the carport, unpacked, and watched the remaining cricket test match between Australia and England, enjoying a moment for the Australian cricket team who for the third time in history had beaten the English in the Ashes series five to zero.

View from the Spa

View from the Spa

We had dinner that night at what we thought was the only decent place in Taree, The Sicilian Restaurant. A few schnitzels and some schooners of Peroni later, I was back at the retreat having a nice warm bubbly spa to finish off the day.

The following morning we indulged in a couple’s massage and a spa. The afternoon consisted of a drive to Forster for fresh fish and chips for lunch. Moving onto Black Head we sat on a bench by the beach, and I wet my feet in the salty sea water while Beck waited in the shade, reading. We visited Old Bar beach momentarily, before finding out the venue where we had hoped to have dinner in Old Bar, was closed.

Heading into Taree Rebecca and I finally broke down and had a tiff. Hungry and running out of options, we decided on a fish and chip shop. During our drive to said fish and chip shop in the north of town when we came across another fish and chip shop that also sold Thai food called Ticky Thai and Tucker. There was a brewing shop attached to the fish and chip shop. The owner ran both, and he and his Thai wife did the cooking. Some of the best Thai food we have had in Australia. And there are a lot of Thai places in Melbourne. This place is not on Google maps. So make sure you click the link of you want to go. I was thinking about asking him to sell me a few beers of whatever he had just brewed, but decided against it. Seemed very defensive when I asked him what his latest batch was. It was a Pilsner, which I am not a big fan of anyhow, so no loss.

I had another spa that night; use it while you got it I say, which is what I did the next morning as well. I was a little wrinkled from prolonged water submergence, not my age ok?!

After soaking for a sufficient amount of time, we drove north to Port Macquarie. Not intending to do much at all. We stumbled across the Sea Acres Rainforest Centre. Heading into the cafe we missed lunch service by one minute. Yes, ONE minute, and settled on cake and coffee before we borrowed a wheelchair and rolled along the walkway. The weather had been a little cooler that day, and moist. It was the perfect day for a stroll through a rainforest.

Rainforest Port Macquarie

Rainforest Port Macquarie

Returning to Old Bar to the Sai Thai Table and Tea we had a nice dinner and some take away frozen ice cream.

Leaving early the next morning we bid Meg farewell and headed to Orange. This was going to be the longest drive so far on our road trip. Yet by the time we reached Orange nearly eight hours later I was not tired. After we left the motorway, there was hardly a straight road along the journey, keeping me alert and aware.

From Newcastle we headed west down the Golden Highway, taking the only road off the highway between the Goulburn River and Wollemi National Parks down to Bathurst and over to Orange. We had some spectacular views along the way but unfortunately I was limited in the places that were safe to stop and take photographs.

It was great to see there were a lot of signs up opposing CSG and the use of fracking along the road. Only once we saw drilling for CSG. I hope for the locals and the lands future they succeed in their fight against the mining companies. The mining companies are also trying to dig underneath their land to extract coal. Several signs against the practice were also visible. As we past Branxton we saw several open cut mines. Very unsightly, unless you are making money from it I suppose. Also along this stretch of highway it was the only place we experienced reckless driving. Go figure.

Hills of central NSW

Hills of central NSW

Our accommodation in Orange was right in the middle of town on the high street at No.52. The building is very beautiful, old and has a great soft bed and large clean bathroom. I really enjoyed the shower after the long drive. Dinner was had at a local wood fire pizza restaurant which was ok, but nothing to write home about.

Our only day in Orange was rained out. The rain came and stayed around until late afternoon. Regardless of the wet we went for a wander in Cook Park which was a short walk from our accommodation, where we purchased a toilet roll holder in the local craft shop. Yes we did. It was a nice toilet roll holder ok, and we needed one.

That night we had one of the best Japanese meals we have had in Australia at Mr. Sushi King. Which is a very cheesy name but very good meal. Some sake and beers later we retired back to No.52.

I was supposed to drive eight hours home to Melbourne the following day, but decided against it. While looking for accommodation in Beechworth, we came across a cheap cottage in Yackandandah.

Victorian country

Victorian country

We drove out of the rain of NSW back into Victoria stopping at the National Museum of Australian Pottery in Holbrook at Rebecca’s request. I found it mildly interesting even though I am not a huge fan of pottery. We had a very average lunch at the Holbrook bakery. Nothing else was open. The milk shake was good though.

Making our way down more dirt roads we found our cottage and were very warmly greeted by Ali, her husband and daughter. Twisted Willow Cottage is on a working farm, with horses, sheep, chickens and plenty of birds around. I fed and pet the horse, something I have not done for twenty years.

That night we dined well at Graces place, No.13 High Street in Yackandandah. I had one of the biggest t-bone steaks I have ever had for $25. Not to mention the softest. We highly recommend this place. I recommend booking as although it was not busy, they need to know you are coming. They only just re-opened and are getting back on their feet, so the menu is whatever is in the fridge that night.

Pottery View

Pottery View

After a long conversation with Ali at Twisted Willow Cottage and dining on her chooks eggs we drove home to Melbourne in some very oppressive heat. It was a nice uneventful drive home, stopping in Beechworth for lunch, and at Kirby Flat Pottery for a look at some pieces from a master potter, and purchasing some plates, bowls and ramekins. I had a good chat to John at the master potter about the dangers of fire in the country areas. He agreed they should shut the power off on high wind, high heat days. Seems logical considering that power lines cause more fires than anything else.

That brings us to the end of our road trip. Not a spectacular trip but enjoyable none the less. I have grown up with the rolling hills flowing into dense bush backing onto sandy beaches. So I suppose to me it’s nothing new and not that interesting. I suppose you could say I am a little spoilt. Maybe my images tell a different story.

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From when we visited Sydney, a year has passed. I know this blog gets little attention, but for my own records and the few friends and family that are interested, I will recall.

Up until I was twenty eight I was living in Melbourne. I never did see Sydney in that time. Darwin, Surfers Paradise, most of Victoria, and my mother refreshes my mind of the time I went to Adelaide, when I was two! It took a wedding invitation to get me up there. I was 36!

The drive from the northern suburbs of Melbourne is not a bad one. It can be done in a day, if you leave early. The drive from town to town is approximately eight hours, which included a stop for lunch in Gundagai.

Our stay was at the Intercontinental Sydney. Not cheap by any means, but a very pleasant stay. No complaints at all. I highly recommend it. The location, right next to Circular Quay was superb. From there, I was able to go for several walks around the Quay and the Rocks, while leaving Rebecca to rest her leg and a half at the hotel. We ate in our room the first night, including a lunch on a lazy day. The food was excellent.

Opera House

Opera House – you just have to, you know?

Our first day included a harbour cruise. I highly recommended it. On this cruise you see where Sydney leaves Melbourne for dust. The reason Melbourne has so much culture is because it is basically a boring, rather ugly, unappealing city. You find beauty in Melbourne down individual streets and alleys, and at a few parks. Sydney on the other hand seems to have beauty in abundance. Visually it has more history and natural beauty. The city has a bit of history around every corner and you always feel like the water is a block away.

House in Sydney Harbour

House in Sydney Harbour

That night we met our old London comrades at the Belgium Beer Cafe at the Rocks. Not dissimilar to the one in Melbourne, where the beer is excellent and food is good (not great, just good). A great place to catch up over a few Belgium brews. You can always find a beer that the ladies will like (if they are not into beer already).

Next day was the wedding. The church was very quaint and pretty, the reception in Sydney Zoo very nice with a wonderful view. The boat ride over to the zoo was an excellent idea. The problem was it was around 36°C, with a low of 28! There was no air-conditioning anywhere except in the bus. The air conditioner on the bus only worked if we were moving. In traffic? The only cooling down period was on the boat ride. I cannot stress enough the need for air-conditioning at a wedding reception, in Sydney, in early January.  Otherwise it was a lovely evening. The next day we could not get out of bed suffering heat exhaustion. No, I was not hung over, I did not drink much due to the extreme heat.

City view from Sydney Zoo reception.

City view from Sydney Zoo reception.

The day after the wedding we spent in bed suffering from exhaustion. Thank god we had not booked anything. I went for a wander to the Rocks around sunset to take some shots. For dinner we went to Fish on the Rocks. The meal was superb, the staff friendly and accommodating, and the wine recommendation perfect.  This is one place you get what you pay for. I highly recommend it.

Sydney - the city.

Sydney – the city.

The next day we were booked into the Blue Mountains tour. It was an ok tour. We were treated to a few nice lookouts, although nothing spectacular. It is hard to top glacial views and the volcanic mountains in Iceland. My standards have been raised too high. The history and knowledge about Sydney and the surrounds we learnt along the way was probably the most interesting part of the tour.

Blue Mountains

Blue Mountains

That night, after chasing micro brewed beer on the web, we attended The Lord Nelson. We had a few rather good English style ales, in the English style pub that reminded us of a good day in London. Recommended for any Englishman that is missing home but does not want all the cheese that goes along with a themed establishment. We ate from the bar menu that had a good selection of beer soaking meals. The quality of the food as I remember was fine.

Last day we did the Sydney Aquarium. It is not recommended during a hot day. No air-conditioning again! It’s a wonder how the fish survive. Also, a visit during school holidays is best avoided. Otherwise it might be worth a visit. I find it little odd they sell fish and chips at the entry. Maybe so the kids can see what they just ate!

View from Oyster Cove restaurant

View from Oyster Cove restaurant.

Our last dinner in Sydney we visited the Sydney Cove Oyster Bar. It was not easy to get a table. After some patience we were seated. To our surprise we were given a view over the harbour with the Harbour Bridge in sight. Once again the food was superb, and the staff did remarkably well for a restaurant that was under the strain of fussy, well off tourists and locals. The oysters were fresh! Drop in if you can.

So a quick tour of Sydney! I think we will be back.

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