2albatrosses

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    See the archive at the bottom to view older posts. Happy Reading. Walter & Lee Tuan

Saturday, 29 April 2017

Golden Girls Down Under

Golden Girls on a road tour of Adelaide and its surroundings Sunset at the Murray River how old is this vine

The Golden Girls hit the road again, this time in Adelaide, South Australia. Audrey from Canada flew in from South Korea following a 9-day vacation there with her friends and her home stay Korean students. Anne and Esther arrived a couple of hours later from Singapore. The Golden Girls were overjoyed to see each other and the fun began at the Oaks Embassy on North Terrace.  Lee Tuan and Walter hosted a welcome dinner at their house with home cooked pizza washed down with a bottle of 2012 Bremerton Malbec, and apple pie with a shot of Bremerton Ciel. All were impressed with the smooth earthy taste of the Malbec and resolved to make a visit to Bremerton’s vineyard and winery at Langhorne Creek.

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An early start after a hearty breakfast was made the following morning with a tour of the Adelaide city centre on foot. Then a drive to Holdfast Shore for lunch. Fish & chips in Glenelg and shopping along Pier Street. All were so engrossed in shopping we overlooked the one hour parking limit. Ouch! $50 to Holdfast Shore Council for being carried away with shopping!

cooked breakfast daily View from Montefiore Road The Golden Girls

Day 3 in the morning the GGs took a brisk walk to the Adelaide Botanic Garden and joined an informative tour led by an enthusiastic volunteer botanist. It gave us a good insight into its history and the diversity of plants grown in this 51 hectare garden within the city. At the tour’s end we needed to put our feet up for a bit, which we did at the nearby Adelaide Wine Centre.

Anne says she has a good recipe for cheeseA 99C city loop bus brought us to the Adelaide Central Market where we gathered the produce for that night’s dinner. Lunch at Zuma, then to Gaganis Bros at Hindmarsh to buy pizza trays. But for dinner Anne made a big pot of chicken/pork soup, and prawn curry with paste made by Audrey and brought from Vancouver. Post dinner entertainment was a game of Scrabble with the lowest scorer to make breakfast for everyone the following morning.

Day 4 began at Morialta Conservation Park before sunrise, to see koalas. We did, but they were high up in the trees. Often at this time of day they are close to the ground, almost within touching distance. Then we were off to pick strawberries at Beerenberg Strawberry Farm; the berries were sweet and juicy. Shopping in nearby Hahndorf followed, then coffee and cake at the German cake shop. The in-house chefs decided that evening to take a break from cooking and dined out instead at Norwood.

work out before breakfast Morialta Conservation Park where are the koalas
koala photo Strawberry souffle tonight

Day 5 we set out for the Barossa Valley. Today Audrey celebrated her milestone in qualifying as the youngest of the GGs to join Club Sixtee n.  1st stop was wine tasting at Langmeil. Knowing that drinking on an empty stomach wasn’t a good idea we called in at Maggie Beer Pheasant Farm for lunch – a cheese and pate platter with a glass of sparkling wine. We liked this place very much and decided to return for the 2pm cooking class. We left with some of Maggie’s dips and sauces and proceeded to Chateau Tanunda and Seppeltsfield wineries. Late afternoon we checked into Dove Cottage and went for a stroll along the streets of Tanunda. Anne and Esther stumbled on a Malaysian restaurant where we bought a take away for dinner.

Audrey celebrating her milestone in Adelaide Lunch at Maggie Beer's Farmhouse  

Day 6 – Easter Friday. Most places were closed but we found solace at Penfolds, Wolf Blass and Yalumba garden, with coffee at Saltram. A simple cooked dinner and an early night, ready for tomorrow.

Chateau Tanunda wolfblass1 wine tasting at Saltram

Day 7 – Oakbank Easter Racing Carnival. Walter and Lee Tuan’s cousin Jamie joined us for a few hours.  It was going to be an exciting time because the Golden Girls were participating in Fashion on the Field and were dressed to be first past the post!  But on laying eyes on the other entrants’ attire and hats, any hopes we may have harboured of winning were quickly deflated. We did no better with the bookmakers either.  So late in the afternoon we retreated to our beautiful Stirling accommodation, a modern but quaint studio apartment in the midst of a riot of autumn colour outside.

The cameraman is ready do you think we stand a chance
Finalist, no sign of the Golden Girls Celebrating defeat!

Day 8 – GGs took an afternoon drive to the beautiful historic town of Strathalbyn. We had lunch at Angas Plains winery in Langhorne Creek, with entertainment by guitarist Barry Hunt, then proceeded to Bremerton Wines to hunt for their Malbec. The day ended with a coffee at Lake Breeze and two bottles of Bernoota to go.

Stroll in Strathalbyn Strathalbyn lawn
Lunch at Angas Plains Lake Breeze

Day 9 – An autumn stay in the Adelaide Hills would not be complete without a stroll in stunning Stirling. Ours was a circular walk from Gould Lane to Stirling up Pomona Road to Old Mt Baker Road then back to Gould Lane. It was a bracing 90 minute walk before breakfast. Then a short drive to Mt Lofty Summit to catch a bird’s eye view of the Adelaide City but with an overcast mist about there was no sight of the city. The highlight of the day was the beautiful golden autumn colour of the Mount Lofty Botanic Garden and the sun shining through the glistening leaves. What a fabulous day despite not being able to have a picnic there. The car park was full being the Easter Monday public holiday, so we had to look for an alternative picnic ground. We found a good one at the Women’s War Memorial Reserve on Pomona Road in Stirling.

Golden girls under the golden trees Sunshine
A beautiful day at Mt Lofty Botanical  Garden Picnic in Stirling

Let's cruise

Days 10 to 12 – A 30 minute drive from Stirling took us to Riverglen Marina situated between Murray Bridge and Tailem Bend. Here we collected the keys and boarded what was to be our home for the next three nights, the houseboat River Wren on the Murray River. We navigated the boat upstream to Murray Bridge; it took 1.5 hours travelling at 7 km per hour. It was dark by the time we anchored - salute to the skippers and deckhands. All took turns at the helm and with the anchor ropes. We put the yabby net in the water overnight. Skippers and deckhands took position at their favourite spots and rocked away soundly in their sleep. Morning rise to the quacking and chirping of the birds, ducks, geese and swans on the river. Checked the nets and caught some shrimps. Time to look around Murray Bridge after breakfast.  A 10-minute walk along the river brought us to the shopping centre. We all signed up as members of the local library to access the internet. Did some housekeeping online and then off to explore Murray Bridge (in the shops). This is a quaint little country town liked by the Golden Girls. Dinner that night was on River Wren - sambal shrimps and a pot of soup cooked on board.

Heavy cloud cover the following morning and a bad weather forecast alerted the skippers and deckhands to sail back to base early. Shopping would have to wait. Immediately after breakfast the ropes were released and with the 3 blasts, the skippers headed the boat downstream back to the Marina. The water was calm and smooth, mirror like, and it was a much easier voyage downstream than it had been upstream. We spent the day with more Murray Bridge shopping before spending our final night on River Wren.

Skipper Anne Deckhand Audrey and Esther Wow, beautiful houses on the bank of Murray River
Ducks waiting for their breakfast Audrey's corner on the houseboat It's empty[3]

Days 13 to 16 – Fishing Time!
GGs returned to Adelaide to meet up with Walter who was ready with the boat connected to the ute. We set off for Moonta Bay in convoy and on arrival checked into our hired beach house, named Boathouse. So we’d gone from a house boat to a boat house. Two days of fishing followed out on the Bay for Leetuan, Esther, Audrey and Walter. Anne preferred to keep her feet on dry land and explored the quaint interesting streets of Moonta, and had lunch ready for the return of the fishers.  The weather was perfect and we caught plenty of blue swimmer crabs and squid, but unfortunately few fish. But the catch was ample for feasts of crab sushi, chilli crab, sambal squid and seafood tom yum.

Blue Swimmers for dinner tonight

On our final night in Moonta we visited friends Christos and Toni who live there and who put on a great pizza night for us, after we watched the sun sink colourfully below the horizon from their balcony. It was a fun night working our way through all the pizzas, helped with luscious Australian red (Pirramima Malbec and Pepperjack Shiraz), all the while Greek music complementing the nautical ambience.

Sunset at Moonta Bay Greek hospitality

Farewell dinner at ChiantiDay 17 – Nearing home we made a coffee stop at Bar Mercato in Campbelltown and left with a few purchases. Our farewell dinner that night was an Italian feast at Chianti in Hutt Street. Esther and Audrey overnighted at a North Terrace hotel before leaving for Singapore early the following morning. Anne had an extra night in Adelaide which gave her plenty of time for last minute shopping. She joined a gourmet tour at the Central Market and later found herself at Harbour Town where in a jeweller’s shop she succumbed to a diamond ring that took her eye. Probably the only purchase that won’t add to the excess baggage! The Golden Girls had a great time together in Adelaide and are already planning for their next expedition in 2019, in Greece. In the meantime, Anne, Esther and Audrey will get together again later this year, in Sri Lanka.

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Arequipa, Peru, to Arica, Chile

Cruz del Sur is the name to remember if you’re travelling by bus in Peru. Surely the king of the bus companies in these parts. We lay back on our fully reclining seats after selecting our movies using the seatback touchscreens and adjusting our individual earphones. No terrible movies blaring at full volume throughout the cabin whether you wanted to watch them or not. Cusco receded further and further into the background as we glided through the desert night towards Peru’s second largest city, Arequipa, 11 hours away.

Shortly after sunrise we came upon Arequipa’s outskirts; garbage-strewn shanty town slums. This wasn’t what we were expecting. An hour or so later we were in the city centre; the contrast couldn’t be more striking. There certainly seems to be a gaping chasm here between the haves and the have nots. Arequipa is known as the ‘white city’ because so many of its substantial buildings are constructed of sillar, white volcanic stone quarried locally. Speaking of volcanoes, Arequipa has a big one as its near neighbour, being located near the base of El Misti that rises 6,000 feet above the city. It’s still active, last erupting in 1985. Earthquakes also periodically inflict damage on the city, the last just a few years ago when part of its huge white cathedral was toppled.

Arequipa has a major visitor attraction in its Santa Catalina Convent, established in 1579, less than 40 years after the Spanish arrived. Since then, many women have entered the convent to serve as cloistered nuns, never to return to their former lives. It’s a huge place, occupying a whole city block and containing a church, cloisters, a square, streets, 80 houses where the nuns lived in cell-like conditions, and these days also a religious art gallery. We spent a full morning wandering through the maze-like facility and seeing the austere conditions in which its residents over the centuries lived. A great place, and very photogenic.

Shopping was on the agenda too. With our long journey through South America approaching an end, Lee was on the trail of baby alpaca scarves to take home as gifts. And Arequipa was the place to do it with many shops selling beautiful alpaca and vicuna wool products.

When it came time to move on, our travelling party of three became two. While we turned towards home, Dylan had decided to continue travelling solo in South America for a while, so shortly after saying our goodbyes at the front of his hostel it was just the two of us who boarded an early morning bus to travel six hours south-east across the desert to the far south Peruvian city of Tacna. There we hired a taxi to takes us a further 50 km south, across the Peru/Chile border, and on to the far northern Chilean desert city of Arica on the Pacific coast. We hadn’t seen the ocean in a long time, and it was good to sit in a waterside café and have fresh fish for lunch, with Arica’s fishing fleet anchored behind us.

And that effectively brought the curtain down on our long five month journey through Cuba and South America. At dawn on Saturday we took off from Arica airport and flew a few thousand kilometres south to Chile’s capital Santiago. The six hour wait there passed excruciatingly slowly, as airport waits always do, but finally the time came to board the Qantas jumbo that had us across the ocean to Sydney in 14 hours (thank God for aircraft movies and red wine to numb the passage of time at 37,000 feet). And from there it was just a further 2.5 hours to Adelaide.

One of the exquisite joys of travel is the coming home; unlocking the front door and seeing all the familiar things not seen for weeks or months, slipping between your own sheets on your own mattress, not having to work out new things throughout each day. The comfort of sameness. Of course that’s a temporary phase and it’s that same sameness that before long begins to chafe into action the dormant urge to travel. And so the cycle continues. But for now our immediate priority is to open and respond to five months’ mail.  OMG!

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