Thursday, 19 June 2014

Long Time no blog!!!!

Hello to anyone who has been waiting for a blog! yes, we are still travelling but not blogging very much (or at all!). We have come away with a different philosophy this time, deciding this is a holiday not an adventure and soaking up sun, reading and sewing are really all we are doing. Consequently we are trawling along the coast seeking out pleasant places to stop for a day or more and just enjoying our time.
We spent some lovely days with Pete and Dawn, Olivia, Lucy and Ellie and although I was laid up with a sore throat lurgy we did have a lovely time and stayed at the showgrounds in the van which worked out very well.
As usual, we had no idea where to go from there and almost had to toss a coin, but the weather is our guide. We visited with Sally and Greg some friends from loooong ago and stayed on their front lawn in Singleton. Greg cooked a great dinner and Ian dessert with much laughter the whole night.  Then we ventured off to Tea Gardens where Sally and Greg have a lovely house and there is a caravan park where we stayed. Cute patchwork shop too!
Then with the advice of the Tourist Information Office at Kew we went off in anticipation of a lovely time at Crowdy Bay National Park, only to discover that the road was terrible and the camp at Crowdy Bay was closed. Grrrrr! If only we had known!
However we ventured on with a couple of nights on the road, the second at Mullumbimby.
Then we went to Coolum for three nights which was very nice and warm.
Still seeking the sun we went up further with a couple more nights on the road until we reached an old 'friend' Bagarra Beach Caravan Park. What a great spot. Huge grassy sites, a lovely walk every day along the foreshore into town for coffee, back and reading and sewing. Ian has read four books on his e-reader (yes, Kate it is wonderful!) and I'm sewing up a storm on my redwork and hexagons. We stayed a whole week! So out of character for us but so nice.
A couple of nights on the road in great roadside camps finds us now at Cape Palmerston which is about an hour from Mackay and absolutely a great find which we were told about by a fellow traveller. It is a new park with the best amenities block we have ever seen, large blocks, each with privacy screens of bushes and only 100metres from the beach where we walk each morning. No phone however but that's a small price to pay. We decided on a week and tomorrow night we will enjoy a campfire here with a singer and jaffles. Lucky we packed our jaffle iron, although we were assured we would be lent one! Such a friendly park with the family who own the park right on hand if you need anything and keen to make our stay enjoyable.
So that's where we are now and next week we will have to make a decision as to what we will do next but if the sun keeps shining you can be sure we will stay around the coast somewhere.

Thursday, 22 May 2014

First Two Days

Wednesday 21st and Thursday 22nd May

On the way at last! We were planning (not that we do that very wel!) to leave shortly after lunch on Wednesday but we finally pulled out the drive at 2.45, hopefully with all that we need on board, if not there are shops on the way and I will surely find patchwork that I need as opposed to want to have anyway!
We have added a couple of extra improvements to the van this year. We have put in a heater run on gas so no more cold nights for us. For those who think we're soft, it really gets cold in the van at night! Also very importantly we have a carbon monoxide sensor fitted so we are very happy to feel safe with that on board.
As solar has become so affordable we have them too so power is never going to be a problem. so now we are truly independent for as many nights as we care to be which is just how we like to travel.
We've also added a table between our recliners, ostensibly to hold our coffee cups, but it seems to be perfect to hold whatever sewing or knitting I am working on at night!
Yesterday we travelled soooo far, actually only to Rutherglen where we stopped at a roadside camp beside the location of the Brown Plains State school. All that remains now after the school closed in 1949 is a plaque. At its peak there was an enrolment of 40 and only 6 when it closed. The school building was  moved to Howlong to become the Anglican Church Hall.
When we awoke this morning we were pleased to see that it was 8am!  Tough call so time to move we decided. Our plan(?) was to go further along the route to Sydney to see Pete, Dawn, Olivia, Lucy and Ellie who is visiting from the USA to help with the girls now that Dawn has returned to work. So we decided to stop in Holbrook for coffee and I was able to do some yellow knitting to help with their project to yarn bomb the Submarine next month with only yellow knitting pieces which have come from all over the world. You can read all about their project on Facebook on Holbrook Yellow Submarine. According to the cafĂ© Staff, they have enough to cover one side at least, and its a biiiig submarine. Can't wait to see the finished effort. Afterwards all the knitting will be donated to animal shelters so none will be wasted. When I looked at the beautiful crocheted piece today it is truly amazing work.
Onwards from Holbrook to our stop tonight beside a lovely waterway in Gunning where we arrived in time to walk through town and enjoy an ale at the pub.
Tomorrow ..... a bit closer and of course at some stage we will have to call in at a lovely patchwork shop at Berrima and Ian will be forced to visit the patisserie, how fortunate for me that there is a cake shop so close to a patchwork shop. It really should be how it is everywhere!
Today's picture is our stop at Gunning.

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Vancouver and Home

Ah well the time has come the walrus said .....
Nearly but not quite. I am writing this at the airport in Vancouver after going thru all the checks. Of course we are early. No one is surprised about that so I will continue on!
Yesterday we travelled on our faithful on off bus again and went on a dinky little (read very little) ferry across to Granville Island which is like a huge market covering the whole island. Bliss for me at least and lots of foody things for Ian to look at as well. I even found a patchwork shop and found a gorgeous baby quilt pattern which I had to have. When we returned to the hotel I discovered it was by an Australian designer! Who would have though that.
After lunch which we enjoyed listening to a Cuban band that were great, we caught the bus back to Canada Place and watched the tugs pulling huge loads into the harbour, including an crane on a barge. Amazing feats of strength for such little boats. There were also heaps of seaplanes coming and going and a paddle steamer too. There is certainly plenty of activity out on the river.
An early return to the hotel to look at the cases and decide not to do them until the morning.
We have been thinking of some of the fun things we have heard and seen and forgotten to blog about so here's a couple of late reminiscences:
From the Rocky Mountaineer when we saw a Big Horn Sheep - the females have small upright horns but the males are ....... Hornier!  True, I kid you not from the mouth of our guide who comes from Sydney. I know you think it sounds like an Ian joke but its not although he may well use it again.
When we were in Stanley Park we were shown the children's water park which has all of the exciting spurts of water coming up just like home but this one has an additional feature of an air drier which blows down warm air on the children as they run underneath. Our guide explained that the hot air comes from the legislature building so its sure never to run out!
Can't think of any more funnies so here's hoping for an uneventful trip home with Flat Norah safe in my handbag after her huge adventures.

Friday, 20 September 2013


It takes us a bit of time to recover after the train trips and the crew on the Rocky Mountaineer refer to this as train legs, we call it train lag! Nevertheless after settling into the hotel and a good nights rest we are off and at the walking again.
Our first day was spent checking out the area and relocating to our final hotel. Did we tell you that we had to buy another suitcase? Well we purchased one at WalMart and as we were walking to the hotel with our cases one wheel fell off! Ian had to carry it the last little bit! Ah, we'll what a sight we must have been!
The next morning we purchased our hop on hop off tickets and started our usual routine of going around on the bus and deciding what we needed to see during the next two days. You really have no idea what there is to see in these cities unless you have a guide and these buses have been fantastic for us. 
Our first stop after being on the bus for a while was Stanley Park which is the north western point of Vancouver and covers 400 hectares of land and is one of the biggest urban parks in the world. We had a great tour guide when we changed buses at the beginning of the park tour who was able to tell us all about the park and especially about the Douglas Fir trees. Which reminds me that this Christmas my Douglas Fir Teee is coming out in all his glory so if you don't like the talking he does, don't visit  at Christmas.
The Western Red cedars are so beautiful, straight and tall and the preferred trees for totem poles which was our first stop supposedly for ten minutes, but there are always latecomers, cue Ian mumbling! The bus driver said to us that the only difference between a tourist and a hitchiker is one second! Ian had found his soulmate! Another amusing comment was from the bus driver from the Rocky Mountaineer who told us to make sure we took all our belongings as he had enough for his garage sale already. Some of these drivers have been very witty indeed.
Anyway back to Stanley Park. There was a huge storm in 2006 and you can still see the evidence of Mother Nature's fury with parts of the park decimated as the trees, some hundreds of years old, fell like dominoes in just two hours. The trees had been able to survive mans attempts at logging because they were so strong and so close together on very steep ground, but a combination of very shallow root penetration due to the granite they were growing around and their close proximity to each other, meant that when the 100mph winds and torrential rains blew they fell one against  the other like dominoes.
After Stanley Park we got back on the bus and went to Gastown which has beautiful Victorian buildings and cobblestone streets and over 180 boutique shops and restaurants. I loved it! It also has the only steam powered clock which puffs steam constantly and chimes on the quarter hour. It really is a very pretty clock as you can see on Facebook. Absolutely fascinating and attracts a great crowd nearly all the time. 
After that we walked up to Canada Place and visited the 1812 War of Independence short film and exhibition. Wars seem to have dominate the history here too as we found in the US.
Not content with that for the day we went to see The Butler which is a great movie. Why we have to be on holidays to go to the movies is one of life's great unanswered questions but there you are. Two movies, Phantom of the Opera in New York as well.
To top off a busy (!) day we the ran across the road to Rogers Arena to watch the Ice Hockey match between the Vancouver Canucks and the Edmonton Oilers. What a spectackle that is and this is only preseason, so we assume it gets a lot tougher and rougher than last night. It was great fun, and flat Norah scored again with a photo with Fin the Vancouver mascot. The goals were all shot in the first of three twenty minute periods with Edmonton coming out winners. We were on Edmonton's side but surrounded by Vancouverians so we kept our cheers relatively subdued! 
A great day in Vancouver and only one to go.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Rocky Mountaineer - Day Two

We awoke after a great night's sleep to find it was raining and had been for quite a while. Our start was a more civilised 7.15 and we were all eager to get going back on the train.
After breakfast we began to see a change in the countryside as we travelled and also in the colour and the way in which water travelled along. We came to the Thompson and Fraser River confluence where you could see how the two rivers met by the colours. One was the beautiful blue and the other in the muddy mineral affected glacial water. An amazing sight! 
We passed through many small settlements along our journey and many locals seem to make it part of their routine to stand on their porches, often with a glass, greet and wave to us. At level crossings, many got out of their cars and waved, made us feel so special. 
The crew were telling us that one elderly lady was always at her back fence to wave very enthusiastically over a very long period of time. Eventually a couple of crew members decided that they would like to give her a care package to thank her for her cheery welcome. Once the package was assembled, on their next journey past her home, the train slowed right down and the package was thrown from the train for her to collect.
A week later there was a call to the office of the Mountaineer asking for a manager to call. It took a while and a couple of calls from the caller to get a response from the office but when they did the caller said ...
"how did you know....?" 
"How did we know what, sir..." 
"How did you know it was my mother's 90th birthday on the day you threw her that package....?"
An "oh gosh" story!
We also saw the parts of the river where the Canadian team train for their canoeing and water rafting and its no surprise they are as good as they are, what an amazing natural boiling cauldron it is! 
Further along we were able to see work in progress as the First Nations people are setting up their salmon drying racks is the start of their annual harvest. The First Nations people are the only ones allowed to harvest the salmon in this area and it is a process deeply steeped in tradition and as one of our guides has a First Nation background we were able to hear how important it has always been to maintain this tradition of families gathering together under the guidance of the elders and learn how to get the best salmon and to share them with the family, in what has been a tradition for 7000 years.The Parks Department patrol the area to ensure only authorised fishermen participate and if any unauthorised nets are found these are cut, the fish then distributed to the elders who in turn give them to their people.We saw many young salmon and a couple of really large fish in the beautiful clear water.
One town we passed through was called Hope. Hope was founded through gold mining although not very successfully as this is where the phrase "Live in Hope, die in despair" started. Oh dear, it's a bit sad that story. However there is another claim to fame for Hope, Rambo was filmed there and according to our tongue in cheek guide, a large contingent of Sylvester Stallone's crew were there purely to apply the oil he needed to make his body look so good! 
All too soon we were at our destination in Vancouver and it was really sad to say goodbye to our lovely crew, pick up our bags, yes there is retail therapy on the train (yay for me!), and make our last trip as part of our tour to the hotel.
We have to say that this trip was absolutely one of the greatest highlights of our trip and the manner in which it was conducted was a perfect compliment to the magnificent country we travelled through. We wish we could do it again as we know it would seem all new and different. It's too much to take in all in one visit.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

The Rocky Mountaineer

Our Rocky Mountaineer adventure began very early as we were instructed to have our bags ready in our room for pickup at 6.15am which meant we had to be ready then too as there was to be minimum hand luggage taken on board. The best thing was that once our luggage was taken we wouldn't have to worry about it at all as it would be delivered to our room when we stopped for the night in Kamloops.
We were late getting away on the train which didn't leave until 9.15 but the send off from the station was great fun, complete with a Royal Canadian Mounted policeman in full dress uniform waiting to greet us. We were invited to have photos taken with him and flat Norah was very pleased with hers! Also waiting to greet us smiling and waving were the staff from the train, waving flags and seeming to be very pleased that we had arrived. After enjoying juice, tea and coffee one of the staff proceeded down the platform playing her bagpipes. Truly a great introduction to the day ahead.
We boarded our train walking along red carpet if you don't mind and settled into our domed carriage which gave us a fantastic view of the countryside. When Ian was organising this part of the trip we decided it was a once in a lifetime bucket list thing so we went for gold - literally - Gold Leaf class and it was well worth it.
Once we had gone through all the usual safety instructions, including to please take note of
the step down from you seat - it will always be there, please don't forget, some people do after a few, or many wines and it is not a good look to fall down or up for that matter. Our great crew were full of good fun and made us laugh many times with their subtle and not so subtle comments.
Breakfast was the first order of business, and like each meal was served downstairs in the beautiful dining room and was three courses. Oh dear, there is going to be some serious changing of habits next week, but anyway that's for next week. In the meantime, we decided to do as everyone else did and enjoy!
We started off in Banff and made our way not too swiftly through the mountains and tried to take in the spectacular country that is the Rocky Mountains and I so wish I didn't know John Denver's song Rocky Mountain High because it played over in my head all day so I told Ian so he had to put up with it too! The dome enabled us to see the huge mountains in all their glory and enjoy the Bow River beside and below us. The water is so blue and moves gracefully along. You really need a swivel head to take it all in and Ian was taking photos both from within the dome and out on the vestibule which was a totally different view from our elevated seating.
Unlike our previous experience, we didn't have to take to  the siding as much as there was not quite as many goods trains in the morning, although in the afternoon it increased and as some of the goods trains are nearly 2km long and can't fit in the sidings our stops were more frequent, but it gave us more time to enjoy the scenery, always a bonus.
There were so many stories of the privations experienced by the early settlers but one we can remember is how Kicking Horse River was given its name. The early expedition comprised one doctor and a dozen or so men. The doctor's horse was startled and ended up in the river. Horses being so important to the survival of these early travellers, saw the doctor jump into the river to guide the horse back to safety.This accomplished, he soon found himself back in the river retrieving yet another horse which when back on terra firma proceeded to kick him so badly he was unconscious and to the rest of the party seemed dead. As they had no medical knowledge they decided to bury him and proceeded to dig a grave close to the rivers edge. Just about the time they had finished the grave and were about to commit the poor doctor to the grave, he awoke and told them he was fine! Hence Kicking Horse Creek was named!
As the day progressed, it was more beautiful scenery and awesome views everywhere, interrupted by more food including three course lunch, all refreshments we needed, or just wanted. 
When it seemed that we would be arriving late into Kamloops, it was decided to offer us dinner on the train which was not expected and we had a lovely meal whilst we watched the sun go down and the country took on another look in the late evening. As it turned out we arrived just over an hour late into Kamloops for our night in a very nice hotel, and straight to bed for another magnificent day on Monday!

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Banff last day

Today is our last day here in Banff so we were up and out early to make the most of it. Our hotel for last night was The Fox Hotel and Suites which we just think was so great and we had a great dinner in the hotel at Chili. Ian is now converted to ribs and I expect that considerable research will take place when we get home in order to replicate the delicious flavours we have enjoyed here. I'm guessing the purchase of a smoker BBQ will be on the priority list. For someone who wouldn't even try them at home this has been somewhat of a revelation!
We had decided to try to see the museums that the tourist advisor suggested so first off we went to the Indian Trading Post and Museum which was fascinating and we have added a little knowledge of the Aborigines from this area. We were able to learn how they were affected by the arrival of Europeans in the late 1700's.  Of course with the arrival of the Europeans came the diseases which decimated the people but also came the treaties which were supposed to provide them with some stability. It's easy to be wise with hindsight, but its easy to compare our own treatment of our Indigenous people too.
We did learn that the Europeans brought the beads which the Aborigines used to embellish their clothes, shoes, saddles and just about anything and the skill they displayed is remarkable and beautiful.
The babies were kept snug in beautifully embellished "moss bags" which were made from animal skins tanned and soft and decorated with the beads. The really interesting feature of the moss bags is that the babies were wrapped in moss to absorb the babies fluids and keep them warm at the same time. When this became soiled it was discarded and replaced with clean and fresh moss. The museum card described this form of diaper as efficient, clean and very environmentally sound as they returned the moss to the ground! The baby in the photo certainly looked very happy!
Then we moved on to see the Parks Museum which was the first museum actually built as a museum in Banff and was established before electricity was available. It is superbly crafted from local wood and quite a magnificent building in itself even before you see the huge range of birds and animals on display which have been collected over the past 100 and more years.
Then our last museum was the Whyte Museum which is a far more contemporary museum containing a wide range of general history items detailing the development of the Rockies.
We returned to the Fox via the excellent public bus service to collect our belongings. There was a great service which the Fox had for us in that they issued us with bus passes so we could travel the whole town right up to the Gondola and also to the Fairmont Hotel where we are now for free. A great way to have a free hop on hop off bus service.
We are now at the iconic Fairmont Banff Springs which is where we will be picked up from to begin our trip on the Rocky Mountaineer tomorrow.