As we have been to Australia and New Zealand before, this is a sort of 'holiday' from our travels. We are staying mostly with family and friends and often in one place for an extended period of time. As a result we have not written a daily journal entry for this section but have still captured the highlights of our stay, both in writing and with photos.
I had a good flight out. I had three seats to myself and as soon as we got to a cruising altitude I put on my black-out eye mask, snuggled up under the blanket and slept (sort-of) for five hours. It was fantastic to see Karen and Paul. They have a beautiful house in a lovely area just 500m from the beach. We spent a wonderful Easter weekend eating chocolate and having an Easter egg hunt with the Smith family. We had loads of delicious food and drink and just relaxed on the patio, at the beach, in the jacuzzi. Bliss!
We drove up to Montville and saw breathtaking views over the valleys and down to the sea in the distance. We also visited the Buderim Ginger Factory. We had a lovely time wandering around, but had a mediocre lunch and very poor service from the restaurant.
At last Michael arrived on the 7th April. We left on the afternoon of the 8th for Rainbow Beach and Fraser Island. It was great fun - all four of us in Karen and Paul's Ford Escape. We drove along the beach and stopped to look at shipwrecks en route. The beaches are absolutely stunning and it is fantastic that they still allow beach driving. There are also loads of areas where you can wild camp and they would have been perfect for Nyathi.
We had a close call at the end of day when we got really close to Rainbow Beach. The tide was coming in rapidly and Michael and I kept running ahead to check out the conditions and then giving Paul the all clear to proceed. Right near the end, with the last rocky obstacles to overcome we decided it was safer to turn around and hotfoot it back along the beach to the inland road. It was disappointing as we had almost made it, but it wasn't worth the risk. We had seen all the pictures at the tourist information office showing disastrous attempts to cross in a closing tide, where vehicles had got caught along this very stretch of beach and had their cars battered.
So we turned around and drove a fair distance back to the road and then we drove along the other section of beach past the shipwreck and took a 4x4 track toward Rainbow Beach. By then the light had disappeared, but the rains had hardened the sand so the going wasn't too bad. We arrived at our apartment at about 20h00, much later than we had anticipated and had lazy pizza dinner!
We caught the ferry across to Fraser Island and spent a fantastic day there. We stopped at Lake Mackenzie and lay on the beach for a while watching all the activity. The water was cold, it was so clean and clear I had to get in.
We were very fortunate to see a dingo on our travels. We drove slowly past and he just stood there next to the road. I am not sure what was wrong with his eyes, but he may have been blinded in the one as it was glazed over. Neverthelss, he looked healthy (we are told dingoes are naturally thin) and we left him to his own devices. We also encountered quite a number of monitor lizards who allowed us to get relatively, but not too close.
On the way back along the beach we stopped off at an impressive shipwreck. We spent a while exploring there, along with quite a number of other people. Still, it certainly didn't feel overcrowded by any stretch.
Then we stopped at one of the rivers that leads into the sea. You can walk along the river in the shade of the overgrowing trees. We saw a massive spider dangling overhead in a web that span a good 50cm, needless to stay we didn't stand underneath it for long. The water was pretty cold at first, but it was very pleasant. At the far end you pop out at the beach to be greeted by a line of 4x4s waiting patiently for their owners.
We caught the ferry back at the latest possible time and spent a relaxing evening having a braai and we even watched some of Prince Charle's and Camilla's wedding.
On Sunday we started off with eggs and bacon for breakfast and then we did a great geo-cache at Carlo Sandblow. Unfortunately the rain sped in and we all got rather wet, but it was worth it. We found the cache buried in the forest and did a little item exchange.
Then Michael and I walked to the edge of the sandblow to look down on the beach below. It was spectacular. It is also apparently where people sit and watch people getting stuck in their 4x4s down below.
It was a fantastic weekend. We stopped at Noosa Heads and had a picnic lunch. There was a notice at the nature sanctuary saying where some koala bears had been spotted, but we searched for ages and couldn't find any. We saw loads of bright green parakeets and quite a few other birds. We arrived home in the late afternoon to discover Karen and Paul's house had been burgled! We were all so shocked and the thief had left the house looking like a tip, particularly Paul's office and their bedroom and walk-in closet. The person new what to look for and annoyingly, we all lost quite a lot. Paul's work laptop and all accessories were stolen and Karen lost all her jewellery as well as our mom's old jewellery with loads of sentimental stuff in it. Paul lost his passport, all his watches and they took my dad's old watch too. All their spare keys were taken for the house and cars. The thief used our day backpack to load up our laptop, 200GB hard drive, the 21 CDs we'd bought Ashley for her 21st, US$800 cash and a few other things too! One of the most inconvenient things that was stolen were the keys for Nyathi and we aren't exactly sure where the spares are! That's going to make getting her out of the container in Turkey a little trickier.
We called the police who arrived about an hour later and were very friendly, but told us honestly that it was unlikely we'd recover anything. Our friend Lindsay suggested we call the local newspaper and put out an appeal. It was a good idea, and instead I phone the two local TV channels Seven and Win and they both came to film our story. Our news appeared in the 18h00 news as well as on the radio and the appeal to return our keys and particularly the laptop and hard drive with all our trip photos was out on air! Unbelievably on Thursday morning, Paul opened the front door to see our daypack and his laptop case sitting there! The thief obviously had a conscious, or as the Australians say someone threatened to "dob him in". Paul got his laptop and accessories back and dad's watch. Karen got a few bits of her cheap jewellery back and some other things we hadn't even noticed were missing yet. We got our laptop and hard drive! Sadly there was no US$800, nor keys, nor digital camera, but hey - we were delighted with what we got. Seven News did a follow up on the story and appealed for the thief to return our car keys, but he obviously felt he'd done enough, or had discarded the keys ages ago!
In our last week at the Sunshine Coast we did two more geocaches. One at Buderim Forest, which was notoriously difficult to find and another at Point Cartwright where some terrific views are thrown into the bargain.
Michael I spent one glorious morning taking the Smith's "tinny" along he waterways where they live as well as beyond Point Cartwirght and out into the sea. I found it pretty scary at first, but Michael soon showed me how enjoyable it was if you were careful how you rode the waves.
We went all the way up one of the channels under the bridge and along the river. we stopped for a while and moored the boat. We had a snack to eat, read our books and lazed in the sun. It was asolute bliss!
At last toward the end of the week I got to see wild kangaroos. By wild I mean free to wander (jump) as they choose and this little one was part of a group which frequents the rolling lawns at the university.
At the end of the week we had a great braai (bbq) at the Smith's house. It has been so wonderful to be surrounded by friends and family. We have been spoilt rotten and had a fabulous holiday. We took a photo of us all (minus Steven and Michael who were both out gallivanting).
We sat down on their pier for a while and soaked up the setting sun. The views are fabulous and it was so relaxing.
On our last day we spent a glorious morning down at the beach. We took Paul's body board and the guys had terrific fun out in the waves. Then Michael showed me how to do it and I loved it! I did not want to get our of the water, especially once I had got the knack of which waves to catch and when! As usual it took much longer to pack up than we would have liked. It was really sad saying goodbye especially as we'll only be seeing them again in December 2006.
Trevor and Sonya collected us from Sydney airport. The last time we saw them was in their apartment in Neutral Bay, Sydney five years ago. Once we'd been together for an hour, it felt like we'd never been away. Well, except that Sonya looks a whole lot different as she is due to give birth in a week's time! We ended up chatting on our first night until 04h00!
On Sunday morning we went for a fantastic brunch at one of their local restaurants. They live in a fabulous community in Lane Cove and in many ways it reminds me of an English village with a high street and square. We chose not to do any touristy things, as we had done loads on our previous visit. Instead we spent the rest of the week chilling, eating and drinking together. We were very spoilt to have Sonya at home during the day, but sadly Trevor had to work :-(
We went to the movies and Sonya took Michael and I down to the beach where we had a picnic fit for kings! The weather was warm, but not too hot and we lazed on the grass chatting and drinking. I went for a walk along the beach and in the rock pools and watched all the kids playing and splashing anyone in their vicinity.
We got to play some squash with Trevor which was great. I ran quite a bit too and tried to do different routes each day to get to see more of the area where they live. We had a marvellous time. We ate and drank far too much and stayed up too late too often.
On Thursday we borrowed Trevor's car and drove down to Canberra. Sonya had sent us off with biltong and goodies for the road, so we were all sorted. The drive was really enjoyable and we passed through some quite barren countryside. It was wonderful to see Lance, Susan, Layni and Bronwen. The last time we saw them was when Susan was posted in Quito, Ecuador six years ago.
On Friday they took us to the National War Museum. As the nation is celebrating Anzac Day on Monday, 25th April we got to see the military practicing for the parade. The museum has a fabulous vista down the main thoroughfare up to the new houses of parliament and is an aesthetically pleasing and imposing building.
The museum was very professionally put together and we spent ages wandering through it. I felt a little sorry for Bronwen and Layni, who didn't find it nearly as exciting as us, but were good sports. We saw an interesting sound and laser show in one of the "hangars", which portrayed the Japanese submarine attack on Sydney harbour, as well as Lancaster bombing raids. Afterwards we wandered down the memorial corridors scattered with poppies.
On Saturday we went to the new houses of parliament. Again we were very impressed with the building and the interior was very tastefully finished. We spent a good while reading about the previous prime ministers and their length of time in office etc. We also got to see the house of representatives and the senate.
Later we visited the old houses of parliament and it was interesting to see "behind the scenes". It is surprising how unglamorous the offices were and in many cases the rooms were not much bigger than a broom cupboard. They had really friendly and helpful staff and they have a great quiz for kids to find answers to questions and they are given a prize at the end of their visit for all the correct answers. Directly opposite the old houses of parliament, on the front lawns several Aborigines have established a protest site (what they term the Aboriginal Embassy). They have actually set up camp and live there on a permanent basis. We imagine that if any other individuals decided to protest in such a fashion they would be "evicted' without any consideration! XXXXXXX
We celebrated Passover with Lance and the family. It was our first Passover experience and it was really interesting. We found it fascinating to understand the significance of the different foods served and the traditions attached such as hiding the matzos for the children to find. It was a lovely evening. We also got to enjoy the mild sun and eat delicious breakfasts out on the patio.
We had a fantastic stay and we didn't want to leave, who knows where they'll be when we visit them next.
There was absolutely no sign of wee Jimmy (Trevor and Sonya's baby). He was keen to say in the comfort of the womb for as long as possible. I went with Sonya for two hospital visits and got to hear Wee Jimmy's heartbeat - it was absolutely amazing. In fact seeing what a fantastic pregnant mum-to-be Sonya is has been very inspirational. Michael is seriously concerned about my broodiness :-)
We played more squash. I cooked some more Thai food (curry is meant to encourage babies to come out) and we did loads more chatting and relaxing until late at night. Sonya and I went to movies twice and the first time we were the only people in the whole cinema - it was great!
We stayed with Rose-Anne, (Michael's sister) and Brett for a few nights. We took Thomas to the park and I went with Rose-Anne to take him swimming.
We went for a lovely walk through the coastal forest and Thomas loved running up and down the gravel path, without any fear of falling, with Brett in hot pursuit! The view out to the ocean was beautiful and it was really peaceful. We had lunch at a restaurant nearby where they served the worst fruit smoothies we have evr tasted. (I cannot for the life of me remember the name of the restaurant).
The time came for Michael and me to leave, but as Wee Jimmy still hadn't made an appearance, I postponed my flight (which I did a second time, when we thought Sonya was going to be induced on Monday). Michael headed back to Bangkok, where he did a bit of advance shopping and I spent a glorious last few days with Trevor and Sonya. We had lunch with some friends on the Sunday and went for a short walk on the bay. Sonya and I went shopping and just relaxed together - it was fabulous. Sonya drove me to the airport (we collected Trevor en route) and on the drive back home, she started getting contractions. Michael Yorke Dobeson was born just hours after I left!