All good things must come to an end and, although this trip was not what we originally anticipated 6 months ago, it has proved very successful and enabled us to see so many different places. Tasmania seemed to have become so much more prosperous since our last visit and we were told that it was now about the only affordable pleasant venue for young couples to buy property. We thoroughly enjoyed our time in Hobart and were interested in its long hisory. We found the Botanic Garden very interesting, especially the Antarctic House, featuring plants from McQuarrie Island. Runnymede House, a National Trust property, was very reminiscent of Pointe Ellice House in Victoria and we had a chance to meet some of the garden volunteers, busy trying to maintain the extensive grounds and orchard. The high spot of our time there was a trip to Bruny Island, where we took a 3-hour boat tour along the spectacular, rugged coast. No whales, penguins nor porpoises but gannets, fur seals and albatross.
Then it was on to Canberra and the primary purpose of the entire trip, to spend Christmas with family. Our niece, Kirsty, was very clever and gave birth to Isobel Margaret Cameron the day before we arrived and we were able to visit them in hospital. She is a dear little girl, a very good baby, who just sleeps, eats and doesn’t mind being passed around like a parcel. Big brother, Ned, was quite overwhelmed but rose to the occasion. That week was a hectic one with Meg doing most of the childcare, Don doing yeoman service in the kitchen and Kirsty entertaining her many friends, who were all so excited for her. We filled in where we could but were very happy to have our quiet AirB&B down the road. There was not much opportunity to do much sightseeing – and it was SO hot – but the adults booked the Antarctic Virtual Reality Show at the Australian National Museum. This was somewhat frustrating in its superficiallity but, while we were there, we had a little time to visit the Aboriginal section, which was fascinating and had so many parallels to our First Nations history, art and artifacts. All in all it was a great family time and we were wined, dined and spoiled rotten.
Then it was off to Perth, WA where we revelled in the proximity to the sea and the freshness. The night of our arrival, we stayed downtown and, in the morning, visited the Botanic Garden. We were totally blown away as it made Vancouver’s Stanley Park look quite ordinary. There are stunning views of the harbour and, even if you had no interest in plants, lottery funds had been used to provide all sorts of interesting hardscape. It was one of the high spots of the entire trip. We drove south along the coast to Bunbury, where we had another excellent AirB&B overlooking the water. Although this town does not have the cachet of nearby Busselton and Dunsborough we have been so impressed by the Oceanside walkway and all the facilities. It’s pleasantly busy but not heaving with humanity like the more popular venues. We have spent our time here exploring, visiting Cape Naturaliste Park and generally just enjoying being by the sea in such beautiful surroundings. We did have the opportunity of having lunch with Julie’s sister, Lynne, whom we last met here 20 years ago. For our grand finale, we visited Mammoth Cave, near Margaret River. We went there twenty years ago and were just as impressed second time around. The subtle lighting was perfect for the stalagmites, stalactites and an enormous variety of formations. We had lunch at Watershed Wines on their deck, overlooking the extensive vineyards – a fitting end to this part of our trip.
I read somewhere that Australians are just “Canadians with a tan” and have been thinking lots about that. Certainly we have been struck by so many similarities – First Nations issues, refugees and immigration and concern about pollution, climate change and the environment. In fact Aussies seem to be ahead of us in the latter. Another puzzle is why such independent, free wheeling people still celebrate Christmas in the traditional English way – carols, Santas in full regalia and roast turkey with all the trimmings and Christmas pud! It boggles the mind! Although we have seen lots of friends on the trip, they are pretty cosmopolitan and well travelled, so have been unable to assess whether Aussies in general are really similar to us.