London – day 255 (J)

A much more relaxed, but no less adventurous day was had. Still zombied from travelling and all the walking yesterday, I surprisingly bounced out of bed and got ready. I was seeing the doctor at 09:10 and I couldn’t miss the appointment. I had to make it a month in advance while I was still in Myanmar. But, I needn’t have worried. I got a lift to the station from Ed as he was collecting someone before a seminar in Oxford, making my morning dash even easier. Blood tests ‘A’ OK (except cholesterol), there was no issues and was able to get a new set of prescriptions. Thus, the adventures can continue and Katherine has loads of options of where we can go traveling. 

Up the road to Hawkins Beauty Clinic I was able to organise a dinner date with the lovely Azra for Monday. I then splurged and had a roast veg quiche in the cafe, catching up with her son who is doing some amazing work with Imperial College London, developing some cool gadgets and engineering feats for UAV’s (drones) and intelligent software programs for terrain exploration. 

The storage locker is only down the road. A convenient factor in our choice to pick it day one. So, I strolled down the A3, with a lollipop, ‘dancing’ (probably much to the amusement of drivers), listening to the most ecliptic mix of music that was on my phone – The Piano Guys, Goo Goo Dolls, Florence & The Machine, Mumford & Sons, plus others. The locker was exactly how we left it back in October. Scary stuff. Sorting through the boxes looking for the solar charger cable I came across such random memories and crates of junk that will be donated on our return. Needless to say, didn’t find the cable, so everything went back in, in a different Lego style jenga puzzle, making room for the big bag that I’d soon be leaving there.  I picked up a lychee flavoured coconut drink in Korea Foods next door and some cake (later discovering it was a rice cake, not sponge cake). B&Q had a small propagator tray and some compost, so I have a project for Alex some evening to plant seeds and continue his current interest in plants. I got some washing done back at the house, put on the dishwasher and got the photos off the big camera from my escapades in the city for the blog. 

Ed popped back to the house and long story short, I was invited to an evening meal with Narae’s parents to celebrate Father’s Day. Off to Nando’s for a feast. Now, maybe it was just this place, maybe it’s the new style, I don’t know… but the restaurant was crazy. You walk around loads getting the stuff you want/need for the table yourself, order food at the one main counter and run back and forth to fill up drinks. I felt like I should have been making kissing noises like they do in Myanmar to grab the attention of the staff. But, alls well that ends well, with buckets of chips being left over on the platters. They were just screaming “Eat Me!” Oh chips, how I’ve missed you, which is something I didn’t realise until faced with the opportunity of eating my body weight in thin strips of fried potato goodness. A slightly dramatic evening when Alex got his fingers jammed in the front door of home. He was an absolute trooper! The remaining trio of the evening got to Skype Katherine as she was waking up and then I pretty much passed out. 

Saturday 18th June 2016

Echuca – day 255 (K)

After breakfast, showering and getting dressed, we dropped Chilli dog off at Tracey’s parents before driving 80km to Echuca. Located on the banks of the Murray River and Campaspe River in the state of Victoria, the Aboriginal name for Echuca means ‘Meeting of the Waters’ and is kind of indicative of the role that the rivers have played in the town’s existence. Once we’d found a parking spot, we made our way to the port to organise our tickets for a paddle steamer boat ride. The port is home to the largest paddle steamer collection in the world, which includes the world’s oldest operating wooden hulled paddle steamer, the PS Adelaide built in 1866. Kept being called ‘young ladies’ by the lady in the kiosk, which (obviously) delighted us both, as we followed the deckhand, Alan, down the ramp towards our boat – P.S. Pevensey. Built in 1911, the P.S. Pevensey was a new design in riverboats with capacity to carry cargo as well as tie barges. One of a handful of paddle steamers that haven’t sunk to the muddy bottom of the Murray River, the P.S. Pevensey has been fully restored to carry tourists up and down a small section of the river. In its hay day, it held it the record for the most amount of wool carried out of the Murrumbidgee river (2000 bales in boat and on Ada barge).The boat ride itself was quite calm and peaceful, with the occasional engulfing cloud of steam if the wind changed direction. The paddles steamer still had its original layout and they had reconstructed some scenes in the room so you could see what it would have been like ‘back in the day’. It also had a sensory system so when you stepped into each room there was a little commentary about it… The Irish guy sleeping was a particular surprise!The steam ride lasted about an hour and we disembarked, had a look around the outside museum which had working parts of the paddle steamer engines so you could see what they actually looked like. A quick visit of the gift shop, resulting in two pressed coins for the price of one thanks to the broken machine! Headed outside to the ‘town’ which still has many buildings from the Victorian era. Spotted a very random tree that people had nailed flip flops to – some broken, some new but most with messages on. Was slightly concerned at first that it might have been a memorial to those who had drowned in the river but as we went around, we saw the usual ‘x woz ere’, ‘call ___ for sex’ and other timeless witty comments…The Murray Darling river system was Australia’s main artery of commerce in the late nineteenth century and the paddle steamers were its workhorses. Therefore, Echuca was a bustling town and the high street is still lined with original shop fronts from Victorian times. Over 100 paddle steamers, many of them built on the banks of the Murray, plied the waterways, rowing barges laden with wool, wheat, timber and other goods from the forests and pastoral attain and delivering people and goods back again. The shops tried to maintain the illusion of the historical heritage, with horse and cart rides being offered next to a shop were you could take Victorian styled photos in costumes.We stopped into the wine shop for some free wine tasting (as you do!), sampling a range of local wine – white, red and fizzy – before finishing it off with a bit of port (only me as Tracey was driving!). The drinking made the stop at the fudge shop next door slightly more expensive as, after the free tasting there, we both got ourselves some fudge… Headed further down the road to the chocolate shop, where I got lured by the sales lady to try the chocolate liqueur – I’m sure they are all in cohoots about intoxicating poor foreign tourists as I handed over $25 for my own bottle of chocolate flavoured port with a free bar of chocolate!!! Fortunately, the butchers weren’t giving out free samples and the sweet shop that proudly displayed a sign advertising British sweets had none… A look around a couple of book shops – I still miss real books – before getting back in the car and heading back to Shepparton. 

Picked up Chilli dog, chatted to Tracey’s parents for a bit before having a dinner of left over noodles, cheese, bread and dip. All was washed down with copious amounts of alcohol whilst we chatted the night away on the sofa. 17 days to go!!

Saturday 18th June 2016