03/17/2020 Happy St. Patrick’s Day Sydney, Australia

We have been slacking on posting, in part because we are feeling kind of relaxed, in part because we have done very little, and in part because we don’t have much in the way of pictures.

The last two days have been relaxing, as we wandered through the hills and countryside to make our way back to Melbourne for our next flight to Sydney. We have seen new animal crossing signs. Instead of the usual kangaroo crossing or koala crossing signs, these road signs are apparently for wombat crossings. We found this out during a nice chat with a gardener at a beautiful local park. Unfortunately, we haven’t seen any wombats yet, not even any roadkills. We have seen several kangaroos on the side of the road that appeared to have been hit by cars. We have been warned not to drive at night due to the chance of hitting a kangaroo. Two kangaroos tried to get hit by our car, but Dave adroitly navigated to avoid hitting the jumping animals (and they are fast!)

We did a few small hikes of just a couple of miles, but nothing too strenuous. We have enjoyed watching and listening to the various local birds. Seeing all the cockatoos, parrots and the colorful rosellas in flight is really a treat, as is their lyrical calling and squawking. Lunch yesterday was at an outdoor café that allowed us to again practice social distancing while still getting a bite to eat. For our last night, we stayed near Melbourne at a hotel that seemed to be empty except for a handful of people. The airport was equally ghost town-like.

For the next three weeks we will be in Sydney, Australia, where we hope to explore the local national parks, while avoiding contact with people as much as possible. The AirBnB is small with small kitchen facilities so our biggest exposure will be the grocery store trips. We are happy and healthy…and want to stay that way. We are obviously in uncertain times, but we will continue to do as much as we safely can, and as much as we are allowed to do. We are following the news and the various countries’ warnings and restrictions. We don’t know what the future will bring, nor where we will be allowed to go or where we will be forced to stay. As long as we have each other, our health, and decent internet connections, we will be happy. (Oh, yeah, and Dave’s rule that a fat boy’s gotta eat!) We will be in the same place for the next 3 weeks, so that should give us time to rest, relax and assess our situation.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!!

03/14/2020 The pinnacle of life, Grampians National Park, Australia

We decided to take a walk into town after checking out of the hotel to see what crazy birds we could find. We saw dozens of cockatoos flying together and a bunch of the brightly colored crimson rosellas. It was really neat seeing (and listening to) all of them. Afterwards, we reached a pinnacle of our trip – in this case, Pinnacle Peak in Grampians National Park. It was an amazing day as we headed off early to hike the trail recommended by us from our dinner mates last night. The hike up to the highest peak in the park was well worth it as we saw some amazing views while trekking over the bare volcanic rock. A late lunch was eaten outside under some trees that were home to a flock of squawking cockatoos.

Our next big decision was to head to our next destination – which was yet to be determined. We arrived in Ballarat and decided to bed down there for the night. Next on the agenda was mass. The Sunday vigil mass was at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, which is a beautiful building in the heart of the city. The sun setting through the stained-glass windows added to the beauty of the service. There were some changes to our usual service related to the coronavirus, but it still felt familiar.

A soak for Kathy in an honest-to-goodness bathtub capped off a day full of highs. Enjoy the pictures!!

Kookaburra sits on the old gum tree…… Halls Gap, Australia 03/13/2020

Friday the 13th of March was a lucky day for the duo. Meandering out of our hotel room, we headed towards Grampians National Park to do some hiking and see some wildlife. We stopped at the visitor center where Dave was assured that he would see some emus grazing in a field down the road. So that was our first stop. We fixed our PB&J sandwiches and scouted the area for an emu in between bites. No such luck, but we did spot a Masked Lapwing which we identified using the Merlin app from Cornell University. Still one our most used apps for identifying birds and we love that there are no ads bothering us. After we filled our bellies, we prepared to hike up Mount Sturgeon a 4 km hike up and 4 km hike back down the mountain. It had amazing views of the surrounding mountains, but not much in the way of wildlife.

Our next stop was in the national park where we plan on bedding down for the night. A reservation was secured and we were off to find our room among the hills of Australia. Leaving our bags in the room, we headed down the road where Dave was again assured that there would be emus and maybe some kangaroos. Success!!! Hundreds and hundreds of large grey kangaroos – the 2nd largest kangaroo in Australia – and some emus were in the field just grazing in the grasslands at the base of the mountains. There was also that Australian anteater, the echidna, just hanging out.

Hungry for dinner, we walked into town and stopped at a local pub for a bite to eat. Kathy had chorizo bon bons over mashed potatoes and Dave had a Po Boy. (Pictures for you, Jill.) Dave’s Po Boy had a fried egg over the pulled pork – not sure if this would be acceptable to our southern friends. A lively conversation ensued with a couple from Switzerland where the topics flowed from the coronavirus, travel, and visiting Switzerland. (Definitely will be a future trip where we can spend more time hiking and exploring the alps!) Reluctantly, we left knowing we had to still stop by and pick up some groceries before calling it a night. On the walk home, we saw our first kookaburra and a bird that Merlin identified as a crimson rosella. The bird’s name says it all, a bright red and blue bird that Kathy at first mistook for a parrot because of its bright plumage. Tomorrow, we will head to… who knows? But wherever we go, we are together and having fun!!

Enjoy this throwback:

https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=kookaburra+song&view=detail&mid=A19FA55B534D25C7AB00A19FA55B534D25C7AB00&FORM=VIRE0&ru=%2fsearch%3fq%3dkookaburra%2bsong%26form%3dEDGSPH%26mkt%3den-us%26httpsmsn%3d1%26msnews%3d1%26rec_search%3d1%26plvar%3d0%26refig%3dac5963cfa3d346918d93429808414976%26PC%3dDCTS%26sp%3d3%26qs%3dLS%26pq%3dkooka%26sk%3dPRES1LS2%26sc%3d8-5%26cvid%3dac5963cfa3d346918d93429808414976%26cc%3dUS%26setlang%3den-US

03/12/2020 A long and winding road; Great Ocean Road, Warrnambool, Australia

We should be worried about where, or if, we can go to our next country However, that is difficult when you are driving down one of the most scenic roads we have ever traveled. We had the wonderful experience of seeing a few koalas sleeping (and sometimes moving) in trees on the side of the road. We also visited another amazing lighthouse that Kathy climbed gleefully, exclaiming along the way that she “wants our next home to be a lighthouse.” Dave – the ever practical one of the two – remarked that there is not a lot of space to live in a lighthouse. That is why they have lightkeeper’s houses. We drove along the coast – and it looked suspiciously like the deserts of Utah. That is, until you looked left and saw the wide expanse of the Indian Ocean. We visited the iconic “12 Apostles” and were amazed at the beauty of the ocean against the towering cliffs. We stopped at the “London Bridge” and “The Arch” along the way until we ended up in the last town at the end of the Great Ocean Road. We decided to bed down there for the night.

Dave’s bantering with the receptionist about “what food is Australia famous for” got an invite to try vegemite. She actually sent one of the kitchen staff to our room to deliver two slices of fresh bread, two pats of butter and three packets of vegemite. He said vegemite is best eaten on toast with butter and “just a thin amount” of vegemite. Kathy is not a fan. She claims it is like eating salt. Dave discussed the origins of vegemite with the receptionist to try and determine what it was made of exactly, but we never really got a clear answer. She was not sure, but thought it had something to do with the leftover stuff when cheese is made. Her take was that it was like a mix between soy sauce and cheese spread.

Kathy is now happily doing laundry as the room has a washer and dryer – a luxury. We ended up with a small apartment with two bedrooms, kitchen, dining, living room, and washer/dryer!!! Sweet!! All for the outrageous cost of ~~$20.00 US dollars. Nice reward from Hotels.com

It was another good day in Australia, and we are loving the area so far. It might be an option as we decide where we will fill the three weeks which are now open because of the cancelled China trip. Australia is a big country and we might need the extra time to explore the country more!!

03/11/2020 Feeling relaxed on the Great Ocean Road, Australia

Today saw us set off for the scenic drive down the Great Ocean Road on the southern coast of Australia. The trip, while not long in miles, took quite a bit of time. We were so enchanted by the views, we stopped quite a bit. We took a walk to a waterfall, stopped at many of the overlooks, or just slowed down to take in the views. Our stop for the night was a nice coastal town called Apollo Bay where we had a nice walk along the beach and a lovely dinner outside where we people watched while eating dinner. We had Kung Fu something-or-other and dim sum. Neither of us had had dim sum previously, so it was a good opportunity to expand our culinary palette.

We also had the pleasure of seeing our first wild cockatoos here in Australia. It was fascinating seeing them flying freely through the air.
We were also forced to take the plunge and cancel our trip to China. We had to make a decision to cancel or we would potentially lose even more money if we cancelled later. We have to consider whether we will be able to get into the country, or, more importantly, be accepted into any other country if we have been to mainland China. Even Hong Kong will not currently permit entry by anyone who has been to mainland China. We are fully planning on getting to China at some point in the future, since our visa is good for 10 years.

Enjoy the pictures from our relaxing day driving the Great Ocean Road.

03/10/2020 Penguin Parade Phillips Island, Australia

Today started out quiet, breakfast (Dave chocolate milk with his shredded wheat—yes really – that’s all they had), haircut for him, and some exercises to get the blood flowing to our brains. Trying to find a barber we walked past the Australian Supreme Court where we got to see attorney’s (barrister) in the long black robes and white wigs. Then, it was time to take a trip to the Indian Ocean to see if we can find some penguins.

What a trip! We found Cape Barron geese, a Black-Shouldered Kite carrying a large rat (this is a bird of prey), Echidna (a type of anteater that is a mammal, but lays eggs—one of only two mammals who do that), Little Blue Penguins, Wallabies (a type of smaller kangaroo), Australian magpies, an endangered Bandicoot (technically extinct in the wild, but there are efforts to restore them),Australasian mudhens and shearwings (two types of large birds.) It was like being in a really large wild animal park!! A long walk along the coast rewarded us with some amazing views of the Indian Ocean. The evening was spent watching the penguin parade at the nature reserve. No photos were allowed because the penguins have very sensitive eyes, especially in the dark, so here is a link from the site so that you can watch the parade.https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=penguin+parade+video&view=detail&mid=E1933286ADABFFB81980E1933286ADABFFB81980&FORM=VIRE

Just as the little guys started coming out of the water and crossing the rocks and sand to find their homes, a huge, full, orange moon started to rise over the mountains across the water. It was the best moonrise we have ever seen! It was so bright, Dave saw the orange light well before it started to peek over the horizon – and wondered if there was a city over there.

Amazing day all in all!! Enjoy the pictures. Dave’s photos from his SLR camera will come later.