This is my original blog for all our non-caravanning trips since 2009 and more recently posts about coming to terms with being single again having been widowed in 2018. And anything else too really!

My caravanning blog is (Get Your) Legs Down and all our trips in the caravan are there. My grog blog is The Ale Archive where I list every beer I’ve ever tried.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Say ‘eh-oh’ to Dipsy – pt 7 - Australia

Oh, the relief – for you anyway. Our recollections  of our 1999 tour of the former colonies with an eighteen inch high teletubby backpack come to an end. I was hoping to finish this before or at least during our recent trip to the Cotswolds – see here, but another dose of CBA, and running out of time too put paid to that idea. Anyway, here goes:
Our digs whilst in Sydney was to be the Courthouse Hotel, in Taylor Square, but first we had to negotiate Australian Customs which took a little longer than it should have done. After we retrieved our bags  we proceeded through the customs hall and, being the only passengers around, attracted the attentions of a customs geezer who called us over. He went through all the bags as they do and seemed satisfied, if a little disappointed, until he came across Dipsy. Clearly he thought that two grown men carrying said teletubby required further investigation – and who can blame him? His suspicions were confirmed when he opened Dipsy’s backpack and discovered the two shell necklaces that had been presented to us in Fiji. It wasn’t that the necklaces were illegal, it’s just that we hadn’t told them about it. We got a short telling off then he took them away to consult with a colleague. He returned a short while later, issued another longer telling off, then returned the necklaces with a  warning of dire consequences should we do the same thing again! We thanked him and scuttled outside for a taxi.
Right, the Courthouse Hotel. Nine rooms on the third floor with shared facilities, this was to be the third time we stayed here and had become a home from home whilst in Sydney. Fairly priced and incredibly central to all that Oxford Street had to offer and - as it was a main thoroughfare through the city – had buses to everywhere too. It was also noisy and hot. If you opened the windows you got the roar of the traffic and if you closed them you melted. Having said all that I think we’d still stop there if and when we go back.
We had a week here I think, and the first night we went back to Circular Quay to wave goodbye to the QE2 as she resumed her round the world trip. The days were spent ferry hopping – there is no finer activity on a nice day in Sydney than exploring all the little inlets and coves. This time of course we had the teletubby with us – taking photo’s of course to prove we’d taken him out and about. Yet more questioning glances, this time from some parents who seemed to gather their kids a little closer when we appeared with the little green one. Can’t imagine why………
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After a week we were on the road again, in another hire car and heading south for about an hour and a half to the little village of Tomerong. Former licensees of the Courthouse Hotel – and now good friends – had retired and bought a place there and had invited us to come and stay. Typically Australian in a away, Paul was straight talking and liked the odd dig at us Poms when it came to sporting matters although always with a grin on his face. His wife Rhonda too had a hard edge – honed from years in the pub trade no doubt – but you could not find a kinder and friendlier person. The made a great couple, and we were to stay with them again two years later. Rhonda is now sadly no longer with us – suffering a massive brain haemorrhage some 12 or so years ago.
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Anyway, we had a great time down there, planning to stay only for a couple of days but ending up with four 4 or 5 I think. They took us out and about to the local sights including the lovely Jervis Bay just a few miles away and Paul took us fishing too, although that wasn’t very productive apart from meeting some wombats as dusk fell. We got our first glimpse of kangaroos in the wild too. It was a very pleasant and relaxing few days.
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Having travelled south out of Sydney, it was time to turn the other way (no change there then) and head north to Maroochydore, on the Sunshine Coast, north of Brisbane. A little matter of 600 or so miles away, there was a specific reason for going there. Our friends who we’d met on our very first visit to Oz had bought  bakery there. The chance to meet up again, and for Trev at least, the prospect of unlimited meat pies was the lure. We stopped roughly half way for the night and again in Brisbane before meeting up the following morning. We stayed at their place for a week (more free digs, bloody scroungers!) and had a great time catching up and swilling far too much VB.
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It was time to head west, with a flight from Brisbane over to Perth, so we overnighted again at the same motel before dumping the hire car and boarding a flight the following morning. The flight was something like three and a half hours – long enough, but if you wanted to do it by train it would take three and a half days. It’s not until you consider stuff like this that you realise how vast Australia is.
With another hire car procured we stayed again at the hot and noisy (but cheap) motel overlooking the freeway but only for a couple of nights as we were going to explore the southern corner, aiming roughly for Albany. I forget the exact order now, but we called in on the big trees in one of the national parks and a former whaling station near Albany. We visited the homestead of one Albert Facey – not particularly well known in  Britain but his autobiography - called ‘A Fortunate Life’ - is considered a classic of Aussie literature and with good reason. Paul, back in Tomerong had bought us a copy, knowing we would be travelling west and it is an incredible book, detailing Facey’s horrendous childhood - being separated from his parents, forced to work virtually as a child slave and receiving regular beatings, then being sent to fight in Gallipoli,  as well as a less traumatic, but no less interesting later life. The book was published in 1981, just nine months before Facey died aged 85. It is an amazing story and definitely worth a read.
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Before returning to Perth we stopped at the ‘Dog Rock’ motel. The reason for the name isn’t immediately apparent until you take a closer look at the large rock in the entrance. Have a look at the photo below.
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We returned to Perth the following day, but only for one night – at least that was the plan. The next day we were to fly to Bali for a relaxing week at the end of our trip. This was not to be though. On checking in at the airport we discovered that my passport was six days short of the minimum requirement of six months validity. I would not be allowed in to Indonesia and would most likely be thrown in jail until a flight out could be organised. Thankfully we had not yet ditched the hire car so retrieved our luggage and headed back in to Perth. A visit to the Indonesian Embassy bore no fruit but at least they were polite, helpful and friendly, unlike the British Embassy which was next on the list. Having given up we called in to the Quantas office in town who very kindly rearranged our flights home for no extra charge. Wonder if that would happen today?
We stayed another week in Perth, this time at the other end of town. We went to see the Old Freemantle Gaol and had another trip across to Rottnest Island for a cycle round and to look at the little Quokkas. The week flew by and it didn’t seem long before we were back in the Airport again for the flight home. 
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So, what a trip! One of the best we have ever done, and whilst we are both loving our new adventures In Patsy, writing this has brought back so many happy memories of our time ‘down under’ that I ache to get back there. Seeing the photo’s with the blue skies and sunshine whilst we are in the midst of one of the coldest Februarys for years makes it even worse! Still, we are very fortunate to be able to have done the travelling we have.
Right, what’s next? Well, we’ve booked up for the Easter break – Somerset first, then Littlehampton – in Patsy of course and it’s only a few weeks away. So until then…….

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