Shepparton – day 331

Up the hill and across the road to the train station, we had Hungry Jacks for breakfast. The Hero Burger was beautiful and with a little self restraint we left without ordering more. I saw a little restraint… We went down a flight of stairs to Woolies and bought blueberry muffins for the train. The muffins and a banana (inscribed with Happy 4th Anniversary) were my presents for the traditional Fruit or Flowers wedding gift. A sign of true love is someone who hates bananas writing you a message on them. John and Florrie (Tracey’s parents) very kindly picked us up from the train station. So, we went an had an early lunch and killed an hour or two chatting. We shared loads of stories about travels and years gone by and enjoyed the unusual trio of dips with crunchy ciabatta bread and fine coffee. We had a bit of a comedy moment when John was all perplexed by the woman at the till whom wouldn’t take payment for lunch, the rest of knowing that I had already snuck off to pay for it. We were soon back at Casa de Hobbito and not long after dumping the bags we were having fresh hot showers. Tracey was pent up with excitement and energy when she got home. It would be nice to say that it was all directed at us, but truth be told only the dog really cared. Tracey was excited about her charity event that evening and we were ready and able to help. Outside and waiting for the taxi before it even sent a text saying it was around the corner we were at the Aussie Hotel close on 5 bells with 2 hours to set up. 

The event, Drags Aloud Bingo, didn’t need much prep-work. The two stars of the evening brought most of the stuff with them and we just helped carrying equipment, checking table numbers, placing the bingo cards around the seats, pens and such trivialities. People started flooding in at 19:00, and with all great plans, some people are always late. But, it checked off with a bang and it was a mega night. Tracey had a speech prepared and I’ll be honest, I’ve forgotten nearly every act from it, but was at the time astounding by the charity organisation itself and how much money it had raised since it’s founding. Tonight’s spectacular event raised $2,800 of pure profit. Tireless effort from Miss Tracey meant the Drag Queens, venue, advertising and food was all paid for and every bit of the proceeds was heading to the bank in the morning. Well done Tracey!!!

With 4 rounds of Bingo to be played everyone saw how the evening was shaping up. The first winner was ridiculed by the hosts. The spectators that made eye contact were picked on and those that Tracey had previously mentioned were singled out. Eventually everyone, including the ‘victims’ were in conniptions of laughter, and the tears were rolling down faces and folks smacking the tables or stomping their feet with glee. There was a moment in the evening where time stood still, the sweat glands opened and the impending doom lay upon me. I had managed to match all the numbers. The girls next to me were keeping tabs on my impressive array of dots, Katherine was shouting Bingo and pointing at me and all I could do, frozen as a statue was raise my hand with the booklet of numbers. The horror was looming, the questions, the mockery, standing up in front of everyone. I wanted fire alarms to go off. I wanted to run for the stair well and freedom. I wanted to award someone else the honour. No, I was dragged by one of the lovely hosts to the front and they went easy on me. Seeing what a mess I was, comparatively to how I was setting up the hall, they only asked name, where I was from, a few Irish jokes and I was free to leave.Back at the table I was a now dripping in sweat, shaking like a leaf and unable to speak. Much to the amusement of the others at the table I managed to drink some water and nibble some food and get the nerves back in check. So, able to put one leg in front of the other I went to visit the queens to see if they needed anything during the half time break. They were all good, and after a chat about their visits to Dublin, I requested that they wind poor Tracey up a bit during the next section. So it was that going around the tables and mingling with the bingo wings that there happened to be a phrase mentioned that set Tracey on edge. They were saying ‘Ridgey Didge’ and got the crowd involved. With so many admitting it was a real word and people used it regularly, it was said more and more often for the rest of the night. It was even mentioned to the taxi driver on the way home – after a few drinks with friends from the rotary club (an awkward conversation about being a woman, not a guy) – and pulling through Maccers for a late night feast back at the house. Food devoured we slinked off to bed. 

Friday 2nd September 2016

Great Ocean Road to Apollo Bay – day 280

An early start to catch our 6.31am train from Shepparton to Melbourne. Tracey very kindly dropped us off at the station and it was an easy (and quiet!) 2.5 hour journey through the countryside, catching up on writing blogs and continuing our ‘spot-the-kangaroo’ game. Arriving in Southern Cross Station just after 9am, we headed straight to Thrifty to see if we could pick up our car rental early. A couple of signatures later, we had the keys and directions to find our small automatic car… It’s bright pink!!
Navigated our way out of the city with no problem and we were on the highway heading towards The Great Ocean Road. Driving through quaint villages, calm seaside towns, pockets of rainforests and vast expanses of green, the views of the sheer limestone cliffs were a perfect background to the crashing waves of the Southern Ocean. We stopped at several places along the route to Apollo Bay to look at the viewpoint and take photos, timing it carefully to avoid the sporadic downpours of rain.IMG_9721After about two hours of driving and photographic detours, we ended up at our first ‘official’ stop of the day – Split Point Lighthouse. Since both of us grew up watching the children’s television programme ‘Around the Twist’, it was a must-see for both of us to see the lighthouse and house that was used during filming.IMG_9725 The walk up to the lighthouse was beautiful, even though it was slightly soggy and windy! I did a tour of the lighthouse, climbing to the top and looking out whilst Jayne decided she’d rather keep both her feet on solid ground, especially after she scared herself last time she climbed a lighthouse in Cuba.

I learnt about the history of the lighthouse on the walk up to the top, ranging from the four different ways that they had lit the torch over the years, to where the lighthouse was made (Birmingham, England). I also learnt how they communicated with ships in the olden days, including a network of underground telegraph networks between lighthouses along the coast. I also learnt that this particular lighthouse had a special design of having 2 metre thick walls at the bottom and half metre thick at the top (something to do with sustainability and protection from the elements). The cast iron staircase was beautifully ornate and the lighthouse itself was in great condition. The view from the top was stunning – could see for miles, although the female tour guide assured me that the view wasn’t very good today. Looked out to sea in an attempt to spot a passing whale but the water was too rough to spot any definitive shape. Waved down to Jayne who was walking around the pathways taking photos.IMG_9835Back down at the bottom, we walked to various viewpoints nearby, looking at the cliff formation and admiring the volcanic rocks jutting out from the water. A walk along the beach exposed some caves in the cliff that the lighthouse guide said were safe to visit but the tide was still too high to go exploring. A quick mess around in the playground attached to the car park and we were back in the car and on the road again.IMG_9751IMG_9888IMG_9906IMG_9919Had been told to head towards Erskine Falls as, not only was there a beautiful waterfall, there was a chance to see koala bears and they had also had snow yesterday which made the place even more magical. The windy road though the forest canopies revealed no koalas but we had plenty of snow – we even made a new friend… Augustus the Australian Aboriginal Snowman – the twin of Henry the Himalayan Snowman Sherpa from Nepal.IMG_9931The road down to the falls were barricaded with signs saying ‘do not enter’ (which some people were ignoring). Decided that neither of us had decent enough shoes to navigate icy snowy paths that were already labelled as ‘dangerous’, so we got back in the car and continued on our way, still searching for koalas. Jayne got me to do a u-turn in the town of Kennett River as she saw ‘koalas’ flash up on her MapsMe app. 5 metres down a side road and we got out of the car and found four koalas hanging out in eucalyptus trees. They were so cute and fluffy, with gorgeous shiny black noses – I want one!! There was also an array of birds (cockatoos, king parrots, rosellas), clearly tame from tourists visiting the area as they perched on people’s heads if they stood still for too long… (e.g. longer than 2 seconds!).IMG_9963IMG_0006Drove the rest of the way to Apollo Bay and checked into our YHA hostel. Feels very weird knowing that we are going to be sharing a room with strangers after so long of being able to afford private rooms (thank you SE Asia for turning us into princesses!!!). Dropped the bags off in our dorm and headed over to the supermarket to buy supplies for dinner, breakfast and lunch tomorrow. I think it is going to be kind of nice popping into the shop everyday to get something for dinner, although we are going to have to be careful that we don’t use each supermarket shop as an excuse to impulse purchase useless items, especially whilst we have the car and don’t have to carry our backpacks much!! Jayne made a lovely Thai green chicken and vegetable curry for dinner which we ate chatting to a Chinese girl who had decided to stay at this hostel for a month for free in exchange for work. Sat in the lounge warming up and watching the wood fire then heading up to our dorm to watch a couple of episodes of Modern Family before climbing into our separate bunk beds.

Total distance driven: 211km

Wednesday 13th July 2016

Shepparton – day 279

I didn’t wake up early, so I didn’t frighten Tracey half to death by creeping around the house. But, the minute the car pulled out of the garage I was up and bouncing about with energy. With nothing planned for the day except getting organised and finalising plans, it was a very bog standard day and not much to write about. 

I sorted through some blog entries – reposting the missing day 220 – and categorising them for ease of reference, with a grand plan coming to shape for when the website comes together. It’s very slowly getting there. 

Not much else happened during the day. Kat worked away on planning the trip around Oz and I worked on the blog. Tracey came home to drop off Chilli before heading off to a Rotary meeting. We strolled to Coles, got some dinner and watched a bit of tv before packing and getting ready for our adventure. Tuesday 12th July 2016

Shepparton – day 278

Jayne woke up at 5am, creeping into the lounge to watch some TV and scaring Tracey half to death when she went to get her morning coffee! I slept until 7am before joining Jayne on the sofa to watch early morning TV and the never ending stream of adverts selling everything from collapsible Tupperware boxes to exercise machines, from life insurance to emergency battery packs. After getting showered and dressed, we headed to Coles to get some food for lunch (and I played on their in-store piano) and to do some research on things we could easily cook and eat when we are staying in hostels around the country. 

Back at home, we chilled out in front of the TV and Jayne continued her job of reordering the dates on the blogs whilst I researched tours for the Whitsundays and Fraser Island. Both of us feeling like we’d eaten too much junk food over the past few days (and weeks!), I made us a Greek salad with couscous for lunch. The rest of the afternoon was spent doing the same thing as this morning – watching TV, sorting blogs and researching tours. There are so many to chose from, all offering different things and varying significantly in prices!! Think I just need to get the courage to make a decision and start booking… Then everything else will fall into place! Tracey came home and Chilli dog went straight to Jayne for cuddles (traitor!!) before barely acknowledging me and then going to bed. 

Went to the GV hotel for dinner with Tracey’s parents. Was a really nice evening, chatting about stuff and listening to stories about Tracey’s childhood. The food was really nice and huge in quantities – I could barely move after my calamari and chips! 2 bottles of wine between four of us (although the second bottle was mostly consumed by John and me) and a coffee rounded off our evening. 

Monday 11th July 2016

Melbourne – day 277

None of us were in a hurry to get up this morning, all waking up gradually around 9am. Pottered around, getting showered, dressed and enjoying the nicest hotel room we have stayed in during our entire time travelling and the room has probably ruined us for the rest our our trip around Australia, especially as we are only going to be staying in youth hostels!! Packed up our bags, including the champagne and chocolates that we never got around to consuming, before checking out and heading to the tram stop. Travelled down towards the Main Street in St. Kilda for a bit of good ol’ people watching. The Art Deco buildings were beautiful as we wandered down Acland street, looking at backpacker hostels sat beside fine dining restaurants and Polish bakeries next to designer clothes shops. Found ourselves a table outside one of the cafe bakeries and we each ordered the biggest fruit Danish any of us had ever seen – Jayne had raspberry, Tracey had apple crumble and I had blueberry. Clearly novices in the area, the ladies at the next table looked and laughed as we tried to organise our tiny table to accommodate our pastries, meringues and coffee – ending up with stuff balanced on our laps. We only ate the Danish and put the rest in our bag for later on. Feeling slightly nauseous from our brunch, we walked towards the beach passing by Luna Park. Built in 1912, it retains the feel of an old-style amusement park, with the creepy Mr Moon’s gaping mouth swallowing you up as you enter. It is home to the heritage-listed scenic railway (the worlds oldest operating roller coaster) and a beautiful baroque carousel. We kept walking along the palm-fringed promenade, looking at the market stalls that had braved the grey storm clouds to set out their merchandise. Crossed over the road and headed towards the beach, walking down the St. Kilda pier enjoying the beautiful view of the city across the water full of yachts and boats. We even saw some people snorkelling and swimming in the water whilst we spotted starfish from the pier. The kiosk at the end of the pier is an exact replica of the original which burnt down on 11th September 2003 (a year short of its centenary). We then walked amongst the rock wave breakers, looking for small penguins and rakalis that make their nests in the gaps between the boulders. Saw a rakali, a native water rat which is often compared to otters or ring-tailed possums.Got back on the tram to Southern Cross station and stored our bags in a locker for the day before catching the City Circle Tram. Designed primarily for tourists, this free tram service travels around the city centre, stopping at many sights along the way with an audio commentary. We fortunately got window seats straight away so enjoyed the hour long circle ride without being squashed as it got busier in certain sections. Hopped off one stop short of the full loop to visit the Sea Life Melbourne Aquarium. A really beautiful aquarium, it is home to rays, gropers and sharks, all of whom live in a 2.2 million-litre tank which could be viewed from a seated area and a see-through tunnel. Spent time chatting and eating our meringues on the steps whilst watching the fish swim by and teaching Tracey how to tell the difference between female and male sharks and rays. The aquarium is also home to one of the largest Australian saltwater crocodiles as well as two different types of penguin in the icy Antarctica display. We went to the recommended 4D cinema towards the end to watch ‘Ice Age: No Time for Nuts’ which was slightly strange as there was no relevance to the aquarium – seemed more of a money making scheme to get people inside (it was included in the admission ticket price). Not sure what our favourite display was as there were so many fantastic ones although it was nice to see a huge amount of walk through tanks and pop-up bubble sections throughout the aquarium for kids (or grown up kids like us!!). A quick stop in the gift shop at the end for the obligatory silly hat photo selfie…Ran out of time to visit the Eureka Skydeck as we needed to eat something proper for dinner (having consumed nothing but pastries and coffee all day). Headed back to the restaurant in the train station that Tracey and I went to the day of the AFL game, making sure we didn’t over order like last time! Caught the 18.30 train back to Shepparton, unfortunately having reserved seating so we were sat in the overcrowded carriage next to a bunch of cackling teenagers who squealed, laughed and were generally annoying for the 2.5 hour train journey. Tracey stuck in her headphones to drown them out with music and Jayne fell asleep (clearly still slightly broken) as I took the occasional selfie, much to the amusement of the Indian woman opposite us. 

Back at home, we watched a little bit of TV before heading to bed. 

Sunday 10th July 2016

Shepparton & Melbourne – day 275

A lovely lazy morning. Not sure either of us slept very well after being used to sleeping alone for the past three weeks – obviously both used to more room in the bed, we kept bumping into each other! Took our time getting up, washed and dressed before settling down on the sofa to watch TV. Jayne couldn’t believe how many adverts for selling products there were on ‘The Morning Show’ and I got to point out that they are the same adverts, clearly filmed on a Monday, that are broadcast all week long. Attempted to talk to Jayne about the upcoming weeks, trying to get some input into what we are going to do and if there was anything she felt I had missed in my planning. However, clearly jet lag was kicking in and it was similar to talking to a brick wall… Decided to cut my losses and started on the laundry that she had very kindly brought all the way across the world for me!!! Made us some noddles and cheese sandwiches for lunch as we both vegetated in front of the TV whilst I pottered around doing little jobs every now and again. Tracey’s parents came and collected us at 3.30pm and drove us to the train station to meet Tracey to catch our train down to Melbourne. Thankfully, we had unreserved seating so we were in a relatively quiet carriage which meant we had the four seats to ourselves. Sat chatting for the entire journey, looking out the window for kangaroos and basically laughing at Jayne every time she took a ‘power nap’ (if you can call it that when she practically passed out every so often!). Even though Jayne was in a semi-comatose state, we were still able to get some witty banter going between the three of us, so much so that as we got off the train, the lady opposite us said we had made her night cause we were so funny. She also told me that she absolutely loved my British accent and could have listened to it all night, which is a rarity because it is normally Jayne’s Irish accent that everyone loves. Once at Southern Cross station, we headed towards the Etihad stadium and found a relatively quiet spot on the bridge, looking out over the dockyards. There was no wind and it was a perfect evening to watch the winter dock lands fireworks. Tracey was right – it was missing some classical music to coincide with the explosions and flashing lights, however it was brilliant! Met up with Ashleigh and her boyfriend afterwards for a quick chat. They had missed the fireworks by minutes as they had gotten on the wrong tram… Said goodbye and headed ourselves to St. Kilda to check into our hotel. Tracey had won a two night stay in a studio at the Tolarno Hotel – complete with champagne and chocolates on arrival – it was perfect! After dumping our stuff and exploring the studio (with balcony) we grabbed our coats and went for a walk down the street. An eclectic mix of homeless people, drug addicts and young professionals, St. Kilda was an interesting place to be on a Friday night. Decided to go to the famous Topalinos restaurant for dinner, sitting by the window so we could watch the world go by. Tracey and I ordered the most delicious pasta dishes, whereas Jayne ordered possibly the biggest pizza ever! Washed it all down with a bottle of wine before stumbling across the road and falling into bed. 

Friday 8th July 2016

Shepparton – day 274

Today’s the day!!! We’re picking up Jayne from the airport!!! Almost worth getting up at 5.30am… Almost! Lols. Tracked her flight details to see she was about thirty minutes behind schedule so had a coffee at home before jumping in the car to begin the 200km journey down to the airport. Slightly eerie driving down the country road dual carriageways in the semi-darkness, well aware that this is the time of day when kangaroos often get hit by cars. Tracey, obviously, did a sterling job and we breezed down the route. Stopped for a toilet and coffee stop mid way, purchasing a couple of Australian favourites – golden rough and mint patty. The golden rough was almost like a fancy flat disk of Toblerone, whilst the mint patty was similar to a large after dinner chocolate mint. Tracey was bitterly disappointed by how they tasted – not like they did when she was a kid! Gave us both an energy boost as we pulled into the airport car park, looking up and down the aisles for the green lights to show there was a space (although, there was a few green lights but no spaces!!). My chin started wobbling as we walked towards the terminal building and stood in the middle of the concourse watching the TV screens to see her come out. Absolutely loads of schools picking up exchange students from Asian countries and a huge group of students congregating by the University of Melbourne sign. After about 40 minutes of waiting, she came through the door and Tracey held up her huge ‘sexypants’ sign as I gave her a huge kiss and hug!! Took her to the car and went to a nearby McDonalds for breakfast as we were all hungry. All full of burgers, hash browns and milkshakes, Jayne gave us too much chocolate from England and a pot of Branston pickle for Tracey (we will make her like it!!!). Got back in the car, driving back and catching up while Jayne became more and more exhausted during the journey. Saw kangaroos everywhere en route and a quick drive by the antique store to see if the huge ones I had seen where still hanging around (they weren’t) and we were back at the house. Even before we had got inside, Jayne spotted a huntsman spider. There was no way that either Tracey or I were going to kill it so Jayne rose to the challenge. A lighter and some bug spray meant that Jayne napalmed the big bastard whilst the two ‘ninjas’ hid behind the screen door just in case it started moving. Fully crispy, Tracey told Jayne she couldn’t put it in the bin and made her throw it in the drain down the street!! After her heroic spider massacre, Jayne had a bath and got into her new fleecy pyjamas that were in her welcome pack and, whilst Tracey popped out to do some errands, we sat on the sofa to watch a film. Five minutes later, Jayne was asleep and I watched the rest of the film on my own. Tracey came home and I put Jayne to bed so we could chat and watch TV without having to be too quiet. Tried waking Jayne up for dinner but she wasn’t having any of it! So left her to sleep whilst Tracey and I had spaghetti bolognaise whilst watching episodes of ‘Modern Family’. Jayne woke up around 8pm so had dinner before opening our present from Tracey – she has made our blog so far into a set of four bound books… They are beautiful.Thursday 7th July 2016

Shepparton – day 273 (K)

Woke up feeling incredibly groggy and fuzzy headed. Thankfully, a cup of coffee and a hot crumpet with blueberry jam made me feel a hundred times better. A quick shower before giving the house a quick clean and washed some clothes before sitting down to watch some TV. Got a couple of emails saying that the accommodation we wanted to book in central Australia wasn’t available on the dates we wanted so I spent some time looking for alternatives. Once everything was sorted, I put on a film (Yours, Mine & Ours) and tracked Jayne’s plane online. Everything seemed to be okay with her flight so I started making her welcome sign for when we collect her at the airport tomorrow. Tracey came home and we went out to get her parents car, as it will be more comfortable to drive to the 400km round trip to the airport. Back at the house for some tacos and a couple of episodes of Modern Family before going to bed. Super excited to see Jayne in the morning – been weird being without her for the past three weeks and can’t believe we’ve got some more adventures coming up in the not too distant future.Wednesday 6th July 2016

Shepparton – day 269 (K)

A chilled out morning whilst Tracey was working her second job at the florists. Had a massive craving for beans on toast so I made some for breakfast whilst I pottered around the house, killing time until Tracey got home at midday.
Had some lunch, got dressed in Magpie colours before getting in the car and driving an hour to Seymour which has a more regular train service to Melbourne. On our way, we drove past the famous stumps. Dressed by a couple of local people, the tree stumps get a change of outfit based on the time of year – bunny outfits at Easter, Santa costumes at Christmas etc. Today, they were dressed up in football outfits. Very random but, apparently, really famous to the area.
Arrived in Seymour, parked the car and caught the train to Melbourne, looking out the window for kangaroos the entire way! Saw absolutely loads of them even if they were significantly smaller than the ones we had seen in the field a couple of weeks ago. A really quick hour and a half later and we pulled into Southern Cross station. Decided to make our lives easier and have dinner in the train station so after checking the train times to get us to Melbourne Cricket Ground, we found a pub and ordered some food. Turns out that we had completely over ordered and stuffed ourselves with far too much yellow food… I even had to keep the skewer in my burger as it was too big to keep it together with just my hands! Took the city train circle line four stops to get to the stadium. After walking all the way around to our gate, we had our page checked and found our seats. Tracey wasn’t too pleased as we seemed to be surrounded by the fans of the opposing team whereas I was just excited to be at an AFL game! Knowing full well that I was completely oblivious to what was going on, my plan was to just clap when Tracey did. However, clearly got over excited cause I began clapping straight away. Tracey prodded me sharply in the side and said ‘stop clapping – we are the other colours’ to which I replied ‘the yellow team?’… Turns out they were the referees!! The game was, apparently, not very good with both teams being equally good (or equally rubbish) and the scores were relatively low. On the plus side, the lack of ‘real’ action gave me ample opportunity to ask loads of questions. Got into the game and began cheering for the correct team!! Although when one of the players made a bad kick in the fourth quarter, I shouted ‘you dipshit’ which came out incredibly posh and made all the supporters around us laugh out loud. Fortunately, Collingwood won so we were both cheerful as we made our way back towards the train station that was incredibly busy. A fast train back to central station and we caught the train back to Seymour. An easy train journey and car drive back to Shepparton before falling into bed at 1.30am… 3 days to go.Saturday 2nd July 2016

Shepparton – day 268 (K)

Woke up and chatted to Jayne for one of the last times before she heads off to Kerry for a few days and goes ‘off-grid’. Ate breakfast whilst watching early morning television as I waited for Ashleigh to wake up so I could start make proper noise. When she emerged from her room, we spent a busy morning changing and washing bedsheets, sweeping and hoovering the floors before washing the floors in the house. So much so that I actually broke Tracey’s vacuum cleaner… Oops! Fortunately, it was the last bit of cleaning so Ash and I packed it away in the cupboard, swept up the last bit of dust and kept our fingers crossed that neither of us were going to get shouted at. Obviously, as the proper adult, I took full responsibility for breaking it! I even offered to replace it but that was laughed at. Ash had a date with a friend for lunch so I ate left overs from the other night whilst watching reruns of ‘Friends’, including a couple of sneaky TimTams. The next couple of hours was spent on the phone and internet, booking accommodation, renting cars and finalising coach tickets. Much more successful than I have been all week – I have got everything sorted for Jayne and me up until 21st July with tentative plans in place to get us all the way to Cairns by mid August. Spent time researching how we could visit the Whitsundays and Fraser Islands without breaking the bank, as I know it’s definitely something we will both want to do! Tracey came home from work and we headed straight out to the nearby supermarket to buy some food groceries. At 34 years old, I felt like a teenager walking around the shop with Tracey, putting junk items and drinks full of E numbers into the trolley – I had completely reverted back to my 15-year old self!! Jayne is going to be treated to some fabulous stuff when she finally gets here (if we haven’t consumed it first!!). Back at home and groceries packed away, Tracey made us a couple of Pinã Colada’s to enjoy while we waited for our Dominos pizza! Had a Hugh Grant feast by watching ‘Notting Hill’ followed by ‘Two Weeks Notice’ whilst eating far too much pizza and drinking far too much rum!! 4 days to go.

Friday 1st July 2016