After 2 enjoyable weeks in New Zealand, we flew to Sydney where we started off our Australian visit by reconnecting with old friends, both in the Sydney area and in Orange. Our first stop was in Woonona with Ron and Julie – a couple we met in Vancouver in the mid 70s and with whom we’ve kept in touch over the years. They were in great form and it was so interesting to hear how the second and third generations, most of whom we have met, are faring. We had a lovely few days enjoying the warmth and the wonderful beaches of the area.
Our next stop was inland in Orange, the other side of the Blue Mountains from Sydney where Meg’s cousin Jan and her husband Dave live. Although we have met Dave and Jan several times (including in Victoria), this was our first visit to this beautiful part of the country. It is quite high so doesn’t get too hot and is home to agriculture of all kinds. It is also the birthplace of Banjo Patterson, author of Waltzing Matilda and all the streets in the area had names alluding to Oz’s unofficial anthem. Our hosts had also invited Liz Caldwell, Julie’s sister-in-law and another old friend. Her family had lived in the area for three generations and owned a huge vineyard, which we visited. The weather was perfect and we enjoyed exploring the area, meeting their friends and attending their local farmer’s market. Our final visit was with David and Dawn Lane – another couple we’ve known since our Vancouver days – who live just north of Sydney in Mona Vale. They now live in a condo, having moved from their family home less than a year ago. Their daughter, Penny Lane – can you guess how old she is – dropped in to see us with her son, Finn, who is the same age as our Jack. Again it was intriguing to note the similarities and differences between our family and theirs. All told, everyone’s concern seemed to be climate change and the treatment of refugees.
We flew from Sydney to Launceston (less than 2 hours) in Tasmania where we picked up another car and drove out to the north coast – again new territory for us although this our 3rd visit to Tasmania. We had a very modern, well equipped VRBO just outside Ulverstone which was right on the waterfront looking north across the Bass Straight. We spent the first 2 day’s exploring the coast along to Stanley – a real mix of rocky and sandy beaches and with a surprising (to us) amount of industry such as fertilizer, lumber and fishing. We never imagined we would be driving through fields of opium poppies and learned that Tasmania is one of the leading suppliers to the pharmaceutical industry! We also went inland to Leven Canyon, stopping on the way at a Tasmanian wildlife farm where we met a large assortment of animals including the famous Tasmanian Devils. For $50 we could have had a photo op holding those carrion feeding carnivores. Our next stop was a large garden specializing in cool-weather plants such as hellebores and trilliums.
We are now in Hobart in an Airbnb which is the Sunday School building of an old church – the owner lives in the original church. It has been renovated very tastefully, paticularly the large kitchen and the bathroom which could be advertisements for IKEA. The main area which houses the living area and bedroom (separated by a room divider) is about 30′ wide by 20′ deep! We took the ferry to visit MONA (the Museum of Old and New Art) which is a privately owned museum mostly of modern art, full of sexual images, but also containing some ancient Egyptian artefacts. We were somewhat bemused by the whole experience but really enjoyed the trip up the harbour to get to and from the museum.
We are not sending Christmas cards this year, so this brings our best wishes for a Merry Christmas and a happy and healthy New Year.