The Start of 2015 Down Under

Cast: Me- myself; Helen- my mum’s cousin; Ernie-Helen’s husband; Scott-Helen and Ernie’s younger son; Craig-Helen and Ernie’s older son; Tanya- Craig’s wife; Amy- Craig and Tanya’s daughter; Mark- my friend; Wilson- Mark’s boyfriend

I arrived in Adelaide on Christmas morning and was greeted in the arrivals hall by my family- Helen, Ernie and Scott. It’s always nice to see them again- they make me feel like I have never been away.

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On The Way
On The Way

We drove to Mount Barker and spent a few hours with Tanya’s parents to celebrate Christmas. The usual trimmings- roast turkey, roast potatoes, veggies- and a few celebratory drinks BUT with the sun shining high in the sky and not a snowflake anywhere to be seen. I was chuffed to be invited actually, even though I had told Helen I might be tired from the flight. But I was glad I went. I even got some Christmas pressies which I wasn’t expecting.

We stayed until around 3pm, said our goodbyes and made our way home where we just relaxed in front of the TV. Considering I had only had about four hours sleep on the flight I managed to stay awake until around 10 and, boy, I slept well.

I slept until 1.00pm the next day and was woken to Helen knocking on the door saying:

“Gill, it’s 1.00pm. Are you getting up soon? I’m going to bed in 8 hours!”

I could have slept some more but I knew I would feel worse so I dragged my weary backside into the shower to wake up.

Not long after Scott came by and asked if I wanted to go to see the beach.

“No, am OK.” I said.

“What?” he replied, “You’ve come all this way and DON’T want to see the beach?”

Not that I haven’t seen the beach before. I have walked up and down that beach a few times before but he was right, what was I thinking?

“OK then.” I said a little more enthusiastically. And off we went to visit Noarlunga and Christie’s Beach. The coast line along the Adelaide shore is just beautiful- huge yellow sandy beaches and perfect blue water and only relatively few people enjoying it. Mind you, you have to be careful in the perfect blue water. Only a few days previously there were helicopters shooing away a huge white pointer shark.

Scott and I get on like the proverbial house on fire. As soon as we met, way back in 2005, we hit it off straight away and even back then it felt like I had known him for ages. And I love that in someone. And when we don’t see each other for a long time- we just pick right back up where we left off-like we were continuing a conversation from yesterday. We chat, we take the piss, and we joke around. We generally have a great time together. We can talk about anything and we can chat for hours on end. (Well he mostly chats and I listen!- see even now I can joke with him).

As I have been an exercise freak since earlier in the year I was keen to do a bit of exercise when I was in Australia, so Scott suggested a hike up Mount Lofty which is 15 km east of Adelaide city centre. It was named by Matthew Flinders in 1802 as he travelled around Australia. It was also used as a navigation assistant during the WWII.

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South Cleland Trails
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Mount Lofty

We left home around 6.00am and arrived at the car park to meet Craig and Amy who were joining us for our hike. Before we started the climb we checked out the map which showed the different routes you could take to the top.

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Amy

I said “Where are we?”

Amy burst out laughing. She pointed at the map to show me a large, red “YOU ARE HERE” sign.

She giggled “We are here!”

That was it for about 30 minutes. She couldn’t stop laughing at my lack of being observant.
The route took us upward and through some typical Australian bush-land-very steep in places but it definitely woke us up. The views over the whole of Adelaide and beyond are stunning so the effort is totally worth it.

There were lots of people out and about that morning. All going up or coming down- walking or running, doing their daily exercise. It’s a beautiful walk. I kept stopping to admire the views and take photographs of the trees and the birds. Not one person was in awe of the cockatoos and macaws that were flying from tree to tree. I guess you become blasé to your surroundings when you live somewhere. And I know I am guilty of it myself but I wish people would just stop now and again and appreciate what is around them. Smell the roses so to speak.

Back at the bottom we stopped for coffee on the way home and went back to relax before the evening’s event- Adelaide 36ers VS Townsville basketball match. I have no idea what is going on in basketball and although this was my second match I had been to-both times in Adelaide- I still asked a million questions. I am not even sure whether you say “match” or “game.” Scott was quite patient with me and answered them even though I have forgotten what he told me already. Amy got a fit of the giggles again when I asked if it had started yet.

“NO!” she laughed at my poor attempt at keeping up with the proceedings.

Adelaide 36ers vs Townsville
Adelaide 36ers vs Townsville

The following day Helen and Ernie’s friends came over so I got to stay home and drink wine all day. Happy as a pig in shit!

In my attempt to exercise whilst on holiday I went into the city one day with Scott and Craig and had a very pleasant walk along the Torrens River. On the way back we strolled through the Botanic Gardens.

I have very few pictures of my previous visits to Adelaide so I happily meandered behind the boys taking loads of photographs. We ended the day with an obligatory beer in the Austral Hotel-an establishment that had been in Adelaide for many generations and one I always visit when I am in town.

I was off to Melbourne for New Year’s Eve so I left Adelaide for three days so I could visit my friend Mark, who has been living in Taiwan for the past few years. He is originally from Adelaide but now he and his boyfriend are living in Bayswater- a little suburb outside Melbourne’s city centre.

I arrived in Melbourne just after midday and took the sky bus to the city where I caught the train to Bayswater- about an hour away. Mark and Wilson were there to greet me. It was great seeing Mark again. The last time I saw him was in 2011 when he came to Thailand for a holiday.

Mark and Wilson
Mark and Wilson

I have known Mark since 2007. I was in Australia and I did a six day tour from Alice Springs to Adelaide and he was the bus driver for the tour company. We hit it off straight away and have been friends ever since.

The first day we didn’t do much- had dinner and a few wines and a good old catch up. The next day I was supposed to get up with Mark at 6am and spend the day at work with him but during the night I had such bad toothache that I didn’t sleep very well. So I ended up staying in bed and going back to sleep. I slept until the afternoon. My toothache eased off a bit and I was glad I had stayed home because we were going into the city to watch the fireworks and I wouldn’t have been up for it if I had been up so early.

Mark and Wilson got home later in the afternoon and we had dinner and some more wine. We got ready and got on the train back into the city. It wasn’t that busy when we arrived so we wandered along Southbank watching the people waiting for the countdown. The drinks were so expensive we only had one each- I can safely say it was the most sober New Year on record.

We decided to walk to Kings Domain- another area where the fireworks could be seen easily. But when we got there we realised there were too many trees to see the whole of the city skyline, so we walked back to Southbank where we waiting amongst the ever increasing hordes of people. Southbank is one of Melbourne’s major entertainment areas with loads of bars and restaurants, a casino and an aquarium amongst other things. And on that night more than half a million people to boot.

Twelve midnight struck. Twelve ten the fireworks were over. Seriously?! We were waiting three hours for ten minutes excitement. The fireworks were good but I have seen better. We said our “Happy New Year’s” and left. AND my toothache was back with a vengeance-no alcohol to numb it. I just don’t think I was in the party mood. I was so glad when we got home considering it took over an hour to walk back to the station- normally a two minute walk. Just one more thing before I stop complaining- we got home after standing the whole way AND we had to change trains-goddammit! (Actually that’s two things!)

I swear to god I am staying in on New Year’s Eve from now on- I just find it all one big anti-climax. There are too many people and it’s so very expensive. BAH HUMBUG! (I blame it on the toothache!)

After falling into bed around 3.00am the next day we all slept late, had breakfast and took a trip out to the Dandenong Ranges-that’s more like it!

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Dandenong Ranges

The Dandenong Ranges are a set of low mountain ranges around 35 km east of Melbourne. On the way we stopped at Emerald where we sat and had lunch by a little lake and a stroll through the park. The ranges are simply stunning. A rainforest of huge Mountain Ash trees which stand majestically all around you, carpeted by a thick undergrowth of ferns. The area is the remains of an extinct volcano which was last active 200 million years ago. It kind of reminded me of the steamy atmosphere in “The Lost World”- you could almost imagine crossing paths with a dinosaur or two.

We started to walk through the forest following one of the trails passing a few folk on the way. Ever since I first travelled round Australia it always amazes me that there are very few people in these places. Sure there were people walking and running through the forest but no one just sightseeing like me. That’s people being blasé again or do the tourists not know about this place? Anyway I wasn’t complaining I kind of like it when there aren’t many people around. Plus we saw a huge branch, actually we heard the crashing before we saw it, but a huge branch came crashing from above. We were alone and the only ones that saw that piece of nature in action. Crazy? Silly? Neither, just an appreciation of nature and the realisation that nature continues whether we are there or not.

We came to a sign and realised the trail looped around towards the car park and it said 4.6km. We carried on walking. The trail was easy going most of the way although there were a few steep parts-both up the way and down the way. We eventually got to another sign and it was still 2.2km to go. You know when you walk or run anywhere and when you get to your destination the distance ends up being much less than what you thought? It was like that. Finally, after 2 hours, we made it back to the car park and we found out we had actually walked 11.5km. Great exercise and a photographers candy shop. It was a fantastic day topped off with a barbeque and a few wines with Steve and Graham-two of Mark’s friends.

After a quick photographic walk along Southbank in the city the next day I flew back to Adelaide for the last few days of my holiday.

I always love going to Adelaide.

Helen and Ernie make me feel so welcome, although I have been banned until 2020. They are joking (I think). We all get on so well and we share a lot of laughs along the way. It feels like home away from home.

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Helen, Scott and Ernie

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