Return to Australia – Aussie 2
Jan. 5, 2011
After dropping off Mark to the Sydney airport, we checked out of Bounce Hotel as the dorms / hostel portion was closed to us per their policy on not allowing under 18-year-olds in dorm rooms, though we’ve not had that policy since we began our travels. We checked into the Jackaroo Backpackers in Kings Cross, as Chris saw it had high ratings, was relatively new, and seemed to have character. Plus, the free wifi internet was a real draw! For the past few lodgings, I’ve had Chris take that job on, and he’s shown to choose with all of us in mind, as well as our budget. It’s been good experience for him, too, as he prepares to go on his own after Adelaide.
Connecting with LOL (Live Out Loud) Big Table members, Karynia and Ricky and their kids was a blast. Karynia and Jasper, her 9-year-old son, took a whole day for us, and drove us around Bondi Beach, Sydney, the Heads, Walton Cove, the Opera House, and the Rocks, helped me purchase tickets for the Adrenaline show with Le Grande Cirque (!), and gave us plenty of directions for catching the movie, Tangled, that Amy desperately wanted to see. A few days later, we caught up with Ricky and Diela, Ricky’s 6-year-old daughter. Diela and Amy hit it off immediately – similar girl type interests! We met Karynia, and Diela for dinner after watching the matinee of Le Grande Cirque’s Adrenaline show at the Opera House (The show was marvelous! Amy was THRILLED!). It took us a little while to connect with Karynia and Diela, as we couldn’t find the Royal Copenhagen Ice Creamery! It turned out to be Anderson’s Ice Creamery at Darling Harbor, still a Dutch place. With so many great places to dine at the Harbor Side mall we walked everywhere to check out the choices! We chose an Italian place, and sat at their open covered patio by the harbor. Ricky and Darren, a friend of Ricky’s joined us soon after we sat down. After we were served, Jasper and Karynia’s brother, Kyle (?) joined us, too! We headed to Anderson’s Ice Creamery for dessert, of course. The evening finally got dark enough after 9:30 pm, and the lights of the city and night life came on. Splashed on the water at Darling Harbor, the dancing lights put on their own show. The evening was around 75-80 F, not humid, very pleasant. The kids ran around (kids as in including Chris!), and the adults joked about those adult-y things… Aussie humor is definitely more open about sex than American humor. A bit rawer, primitive, and funny. No qualms, no worries!
The next day as we headed to rent a car, we passed by the Boomerang School on William Street. Geoff had asked us for an authentic boomerang, so we stopped in. Duncan, an 83-year-old immigrated Englishman formerly from Bristol, greeted us. He’d been making boomerangs for over 50 years. He seemed so frail that I was afraid he couldn’t really help us! But, he slowly explained to us the perfect boomerang for Geoff, a beginner, as well as the history of boomerangs, and how they were used by the Aboriginals. He said that he also taught people how to throw boomerangs, and several signs on the window and counters indicated the pricing for one hour, a day, etc. It seemed reasonable, if one wanted to REALLY learn how to work a boomerang! Hence, the Boomerang School part. The shop had just opened its doors for the day, but we were not the first customers! A man and a woman were looking over and talking with Duncan as we went inside.
I found him and his enthusiasm for boomerangs amusing, and a bit sad. In the back of my mind was to record this Living History before he died. He even mentioned wanting to write a book on boomerangs, and how they’re still being used, but not for hunting so much as for sports. It was amusing to learn, too, that Americans have the record for the Boomerang Olympics! The Aussies aren’t even Second. Anyway, we purchased two boomerangs – rather pricey items, but the Beginner one was $18, and the Intermediate one was $22. Other ones were more expensive than that (up to hundreds of dollars!) because of the type of wood, craftsmanship, and age. He had a collection of Killing Boomerangs, where they were not meant to return. Those are thrown for knocking out geese, rabbits, small kangaroos, birds. They were fast and lethal. Shaped more like an “L” with a wider angle, or a “Y” with one of the legs knocked out, they had long handles, and were thrown somewhat differently than the Returning Boomerangs. After almost 30 minutes of talking and listening, we finally left the rather warm shop, as more customers entered.
Galwary Horse Stables & Ranch
After picking up our rental car, we drove through The Blue Mountains to meet up with Maria Ardis at Parkes, west of Sydney and The Blue Mountains, and slightly north. Not quite in the middle of Australia, as we were still in New South Wales. I wish we could have stopped along the way at the Blue Mountains, but Amy was all on fire to get to the horse ranch! After coming down the Blue Mountains, it’s mainly pasture land, and lots of it! Chris and I traded off driving. Oh, about our car — this time we rented a Toyota Corolla 4-door sedan, and it has MORE room for luggage in the trunk than the SUV or station wagon we rented before! With room to spare, too! The day was cool in Sydney, but grew warmer as we headed to Parkes. We got very lost, as the GPS stopped working after the mountains. Of course, the very last possible option was the correct one, and we rolled into the 3,500 acre ranch, of which Maria leases a couple hundred acres for training her horses. Maria is a “horse whisperer” though it’s not considered a positive title, apparently. Handling a horse is not just second nature to Maria, but more like “first nature!” She knows almost instantly what it’s all about with a horse when she first meets it. With her consistency in how she handles them, the horses learn to respect her, as well as learn how to communicate and respond. Quite impressive.
Anyway, we found Maria, Shanti, Morgan, Sophie, and Sienna, Maria’s 2-year-old daughter, all in the swimming pool. I had never seen how fast anyone could change and jump into a pool before I saw Chris and Amy do it!
Well, the cool water was refreshing, and absolutely what we needed! Maria was a bit surprised by our showing up, as she explained that few people actually take up her offer to visit her ranch! Well, I guess she now knows a bit more about us. ‘C) We say what we mean, and we mean what we say.
Shanti is a friend of Maria’s from Melbourne; Sophie is a neighbor’s daughter of Maria’s ranch; Morgan is a student who’s known Maria for a number of years and who lives in Sydney usually, but was on her last week of horse riding lessons at Maria’s; and Sienna is a precocious little toddler, who showed me how to harness her pony, Toby, and lead the pony off to ride, while the others were saddling their horses! Amy was raring to go ride a horse, but Maria wisely checked her enthusiasm by having her observe Morgy and Sophie riding first. Amy got to ride a horse at a trot, and then taught how to “talk” to the horse through her knees, hands, voice, and reins. She watched and helped saddle the horses later.
On our first day out, Maria took everyone to the “dam” (AKA a pond in American English) and since it was such a hot day (90-100s F), she showed us how the horses take the kids for a tow, and how they swim with riders on, as well as some horse hopping while in the water. Chris even got a chance to ride in the water. Angel, Maria’s dog, happily pounced, ran, and barked around us the whole time! What fun! Truly like a summer holiday at a horse ranch! After four days in Parkes, and Galwary Ranch (a mere 3,500 acres remember?), we’d not only learned quite a bit about horses, but also about Aussie life on a ranch, the characters in the area, where to go for liquor, crystal-hunting, bird-watching, went swimming, played water volleyball, filmed Amy working with her horse, went shopping at the “horse depot” – where anything for horses is available! We had such a wonderful time that it seemed a shame to leave, but we made Maria promise to stay with us in the States when she came over to train some horses in America, and / or when she came over to participate in the horse training competitions!
We headed to Canberra, the capital of Australia, and like Washington, DC, is in an area for itself called the ACT – Australian Capital Territory. So, it’s Canberra, ACT. Washington, DC. … hmm, a bit of copycatting? Heh heh…
It was a long drive, and we were actually disappointed, as we’d hoped to find some glassblowing happening in Canberra. I don’t know what gave us that impression, except for online searching for glassblowing, and several places showed up. Perhaps it was too close to the New Year and those places weren’t open, responding or available? Anyway, Canberra is a tourist town based on … parliamentary procedures? … Legal beagle governmental stuff? … A plethora of good eats and social entertainment? It proved itself with the expensive hotels (no hostels! Weird), and a lack of character that would “show off” Australia’s uniqueness. It had been gentrified, sadly enough.
On the second day, we’d had enough, as drove to Wollangong for the hell of it, as we were not ready to land back in Sydney. Wollangong is a vacation resort town, beaches, surfing, hotels, the usual sites, except for one marvelous part while entering the Wollangong area – a relative rain forest of tall eucalyptus trees, so straight and narrow trunked! The canopy seemed miles high above us as we drove down from the higher plains we’d been on, as we came toward Wollangong. It was regal, like sentries lining the winding road downhill. Then, the sandy soils began, and the forest abruptly ended, opening up to scrub, a previously hidden waterfall, and views of beaches and ocean.
The next thing to see is the Buddhist Monastery – of course! We simply couldn’t resist and followed the convoluted way to the hillside retreat. It was HUGE and beautiful. If we didn’t really know where we were, it easily could have been anywhere in Asia! We spent hours there, though the original thought was to stop for a 30-minute break! The albums show but a few things we saw, tip of the iceberg.
I can’t believe I’d say or write this, but, “Thank goodness for MacDonalds!” We checked out several hotels online at a local MacDonalds (as Wollangong is not known for wifi), and began the arduous task of checking for vacancy and prices. We found one quite close by to the lighthouse and cove of Wollangong for a reasonable price ($140 for a suite), especially since it was the middle of summer! Once checked in, Chris and Amy immediately walked to the cove and played on the beach nearby. Wollangong really reminded me of Hawaii, Waikaki or Honolulu. The humidity was pretty thick … maybe that’s what reminded me?
Back to Sydney
The next day though Sydney was only an hour away, but traffic was horrendous! It was a Sunday. EVERYONE was out and driving into Sydney from the south. The one tunnel into the city was paved with non-moving cars. We took the toll road, cost $5.50, and got into Sydney in 30 minutes, in time to drop Chris, Amy and the luggage to Jackaroo Backpackers at Kings Cross (again – this was where we stayed for almost a week before!), and still had 30 minutes to turn in the car at the rental place two blocks away. Ha Ha! So Simple it was NOT! I made a wrong right turn, and drove right back ACROSS on the toll road back to where the traffic was stalled! Unbelievable! Anyway, thinking to outsmart the stall, I drove further backwards away from Sydney in the hopes of catching the toll road. No go. Not far enough backwards. Ugh! After being stuck for 30 minutes, I made a U-Turn and bit the bullet, driving further away from Sydney to the airport to hook up with the toll road again. Each direction is $5.50, so that afternoon, I amassed a total of $16.50 for the pleasure of returning the damn car – an hour later than agreed. Luckily, the car rental center didn’t charge me overtime. It would have been salt into the wound after being abused by the traffic jam!
After making contacts from Sydney to glassblowing places in Australia again – we chose to visit three of them: Robert Wynne in Manly, Tim Bassett in Melbourne (well, Healesville, by where the wild animal sanctuary is!), and the Gordon Glass Studio near Sorrento, south of Melbourne.
Robert Wynne & Manly
On the day before we were flying out to Melbourne, we caught up with Robert Wynne. Manly is across the Sydney bridge, but we took a ferry boat over from Circular Quay, and caught a taxi to about where we thought the studio is. It wasn’t, but we found it through a VERY SLOW wifi at MacDonalds. We walked the 3 km in the blistering heat and humidity, and realized that 3 km is FAR AWAY! Ha ha…
Robert Wynne greeted us warmly though his studio was shut down as he was doing some cold work. To check out his works: http://robertwynne.com/gallery – you’ll see some of his amazing glass, and the detailed coldwork some of his glass undergo! While at his studio, he had two other visitors – a photographer for a Toyota commercial that wanted to use his expertise in glass to make a glass man; and a couple of gentlemen who wanted to commission him for a baptismal fount. While Robert spoke with the other visitors, Chris fixed his antique bicycle that Robert was thinking of selling on eBay, and Amy entertained Nick, Robert’s young and thoroughly enjoyable son! Chris and Amy sure have some handy skills! We finally left Robert’s studio after spending hours there.
Next – Onward to Melbourne – again!