Monthly Archives: June 2013

Cruising down the Murray River

When people ask, “What was your favorite adventure in Australia,” my answer is riding a camel near Ayers Rock at sunrise.  Dick’s answer is being captain of a house boat going down the Murray River.  While my adventure lasted a couple of hours, this adventure lasted a couple of days.  As we embark that first evening we feel very much as though we have this lazy, rolling, muddy brown, wide river all to ourselves.  Later we do see others, but this is truly our own boat and our own space.

  There are four of us to share this furnished houseboat and we have purchased groceries to last 3 full days plus and evening and a morning.  For our first dinner on the boat we taught our friends the art of picking and eating crabs.  These were larger but similar to our Maryland Crab and we only had one each at the end of our seafood meal.

The days are leisurely with numerous scenery changes along the way. There are flocks of white birds that, from a distance, look like cotton growing on trees, and we see many lovely black swans.  Our destination is Big Bend where we will meet farm owners who take us out into their fields to see the kangaroos at night.

Dick is our captain and Harry serves as co captain.  We have often said when we are on a boat we are glad to have Dick along.  When we are on a plane, especially a smaller one we are glad to have our pilot, Harry, along. Early on the second day, our captain wants to take a break to eat. He gives me the wheel with these instructions:  “Keep it in the middle of the channel, Honey.”  “OK, no problem——-oops, Help, I’m going off to the right.”  “Turn the wheel, —-Not that hard, turn it, more, more, it’s not like a car.”  OK I finally got the hang of it and we are cruising down the middle, listening to Phil Keagy’s River of Life song. Life is good!

My good friend, iced tea, a rubber ducky, bubbles and a hot tub consume the late afternoon hours.  Did I mention that ‘LIFE IS GOOD.’
I guess I should also mention that the bubbles cover the brown water that comes in from the river to fill the tub.

We can’t travel at night, so just before dusk we must anchor and tie this baby to shore.  Captain Dick knows just what to do.  First we ease our dream boat close to the shore, then put down the gang plank, pass the ropes and make that knot good.

Soon, Dick and Harry are experts at tieing off the boat and making us secure for the night.

This awesome sunset actually filled the skies above us and water below us our first night out. Deep purples, shifting oranges and yellows as far as you could see in any direction.  A surprise for sure and a glorious sight.

Later we enjoyed some campfire time on the bank and watched curious cows grazing not far away.  We played  Australian Trivia in the evening and were thankful that there were a few easy American questions scattered throughout. We learned some things about Australia as we laughed and stumbled through most of the questions.

Our last night on the boat was enchanting, and of course we wanted some pictures of the four us.  Only problem, there was no one to take the picture.  So Dick sets up the little used self-timer on the camera and we have five pictures of the three of us.  The sixth picture is a double exposure but who cares?  We are laughing so hard we can’t see straight anyway.

Finally on the seventh try we get the picture we want and then head to the top deck of the boat for another surprise. Dick had packed away the music to the song Unforgettable  which happened to be the name of our boat.  A beautiful song, a warm breeze, and a last dance, to remember an unforgettable cruise down the Murray River.

That was very near the end of our trip, but when we brought the boat back to port we met people who were one another boat, interested in talking with us because we were from the states.  She was an airline hostess and was on duty for our flight to LA the next day.  Just before sunset as we are flying home she comes to our seats and invites us on a tour of the first class accommodations and the flight deck.  Remember, this is April 2001 and she takes us into the flight cabin to meet the pilot and copilot.  We stepped into a room about the size of a small office. The first thing you notice is the huge panel board with so many instruments and gadgets, but very quickly my eyes went to the windows that encircled the entire front of the cabin.  The view was staggering and I hesitated to take a step because you had the momentary feeling that you could fall off the edge. With a quick adjustment and my hand firmly grasping the back of the seat, I could see way down to the ocean and over on our left the sun was falling into the ocean spilling buckets of paint on its way. It was hard to tell where the sky ended and the ocean began. The curvature of the earth was quite evident.  It was absolutely an incredible experience and a blessing we will long be thankful for.  In September of 2001 we recalled our experience and knew that the world had changed for ever. We were perhaps among the last passengers to ever have that opportunity.

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You gotta love surprises

It was surprise enough that we were even able to go to Australia, but once we got there, the surprises kept coming.  In April of 2001 The Crocodile Hunter with Steve Irvin was quite popular and we enjoyed watching the show on Animal Planet TV.  Australia is a big country, but from our planning it looked liked his highly acclaimed zoo was accessible and not too far out of the way as we drove back to Brisbane from Hervey Bay. 

 Turned out it was more than easy to get to, because of the large signs we began passing that had the familiar picture of Steve with a crocodile in his arms.  It was also easy to get excited  about having the opportunity to visit the famed attraction.

 We enjoyed strolling around this well kept zoo, seeing the laughing Kookaburra, wombats galore, otters and kangaroos with minimal caging and maximum natural environment enclosures. The grand surprise of the day came right after having lunch in the Dingo Diner, so named for the wild Australian dog. The Dingo burger is stacked with the usual Aussie fare of red beets, bacon, egg, cheese and various fresh vegetables, including lettuce, carrots and radishes. Your salad is definitely included in an Aussie burger.  We had about an hour to kill before the crock feeding began, so Dick and I decided to head for the gift shop.  On the way we passed a Tasmanian Devil compound and stopped to take a look.  Then Dick noticed that there were zoo keepers in the near by Dingo pen putting leashes on three of the dogs.  We stood by the gate watching.  Because there was movement in the compound I turned on my video camera and started filming.  Imagine my surprise when I zoomed in on the female zoo attendant and recognized Terri Irvin.
The funny part of this story is that when my friend Karen, who lives on the west coast, heard that we were going to Australia she nonchalantly said, “well if you run into Terri Irvin tell her I said Hi, I was her third grade teacher.”
I was amazed, here she was walking toward my camera. Terri and her two colleagues, with the dogs on leash were heading straight to the gate where we were standing and there was no one else around.

 “Are you Terri,” I asked as they came near. “Yes, I am,” she replied as she smiled up at me.
 “Do you remember Karen__________,” I asked. “She was your third grade teacher in Oregon.”
 “Yes, I know her,” she said, recognizing the name immediately, “she is a lovely person.”
 “I was her roommate in Hawaii,” I continued, “she asked me to say hello to you if I saw you.”
 “Small world.” was her reply as she moved on from the gate.  I then asked if we could get a picture for Karen and she said “Sure.”   One of the other zoo keepers took the picture and now I am happy to share that wonderful surprise with my blog followers.
Upon our return home, Karen was just as surprised to hear this story as I was to witness it.

We had seen the crocks lying around but now were anxious to see some action, so we take our ringside seats as the feeders approach the slithering crocks with dangling chicken necks. I got another surprise when my video camera battery went dead just before the loud chomp of the snapping jaws closing around its dinner.

 About two weeks after arriving home we saw an episode of The Crocodile hunter rescuing and transporting this albino kangaroo to the zoo.  He had probably arrived just weeks before we did and by the looks of this picture might have still been recovering from the trauma and shock of the move and rescue.

More surprises to come as the four of us go down the Murray River in a huge houseboat, and one of them involves an airplane.  See you next time as we continue to live life with frivolous ferociousness.

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Holy Cow, how did they do that?

I never even thought to dream about going to Australia. Isn’t that forever away, on the bottom of the world? One little sentence from a friend changed that attitude.  She said, “Why not Australia?”  Why not indeed?  So it began;  the saving, and the planning.  Early on we realized we could not save enough in the time to make it happen, but Linda had a plan B. She and her husband Harry had accumulated over the years enough frequent flyer miles for three tickets to Australia.  We needed four, and somehow we just couldn’t buy one or the deal was off, according the airline policy. 
 So happens this is the same year that Kellogg’s Cereal is offering miles for boxtops. We tried in our area, but couldn’t collect enough and the stores here had even stopped carrying the ones with the needed coupons.  One more plan went into action. We sent a check, and Harry and Linda went into a store and ordered enough cases of cereal to get one more ticket, about 400 boxes. After cutting out the coupon, the cereal was donated to a school that served breakfast. They spent countless hours in their living room in Texas cutting, filling out and mailing in coupons.  A labor of love that we appreciated so much. 
After months of internet trip planning, and thirteen weeks before take off, Linda took a fall and broke, not one, but two ankles. Two week countdown and one of the ankles’ got infected. Dr said, no way was she getting on that 18 hour flight in two weeks.  We were devastated.  We kept praying and she kept insisting that we go. We had planned for three weeks and Linda had our itinerary down to a “T.”
Dick and I made the trip, sad, but confident that they would be able to join us the following week, as her ankle continued to heal on the antibiotics.

 So we hiked the Blue Mountains without them, feeding colorful wild parrots and taking two, day long hikes into the enchanted rain forest. Below we are pictured at the “Wildframe’s Blue Mountains Grand Canyon.

Our last morning in the mountains we enjoyed a tour on a three wheeler.  Our tour guide did the driving, but it was fun to pose as though Dick did. We also soared 350 meters above the beautiful Jamison Valley on the skyway lift and went up a mountain backwards in a glass covered railroad car.  What a thrill!

Soon it was time to head back to Sydney and meet up with our tired and happy friends, Harry and Linda. We saw the opera house, the harbor and did window shopping and lunch at the rocks.  Dick and I did the 200 steps up the nearest Pylon to the bridge to watch the climbers do the real deal.

That evening and deep into the night we had dinner, music and mutiny shenanigans on the replica of The Bounty, as we sailed around the Sydney Harbor. We were sad to learn that this beautiful old ship sank during Hurricane Sandy this past October.  The harbor opera house is decked out for the 2000 Olympics with its color lined sails on this postcard we picked up on our trip in 2001.

 From Sydney we flew up to Brisbane and rented a car to drive up to Hervey Bay.  We stayed at The Great Sandy Straits Marina and quickly learned that it is a joyful thing to wake up in Hervey Bay. We walked the half mile fishing pier and rode bike along The Esplanade.

 To this day, I maintain, the best meal I have had in my life I enjoyed at The Black Dog Cafe in Hervey Bay.  Its diverse menu offered a prime rib meal covered with a delicate shrimp and garlic sauce.  I let out a sigh after every mouth watering bite.

Our purpose for going to Hervey Bay was to hop a small plane out to Lady Elliot Island, and the joys we experienced there were unexpected bonuses.  Little did we know of the delights that awaited us at our destination.  We were on the Southern edge of the Great Barrier Reef.

 I was chicken and only had my head under the water for brief moments. One of the deepest regrets I have is not taking full advantage of the snorkeling time we had.  Thirty feet down in clear blue water, with mountain like reefs and multiple colorful fish.  It was a wonder of ‘other world “ish” ness.’

  Even on land we could wade out into the ocean and see magnificent colored sea life.

 After three days of basking in shear natrual beauty we left Lady Elliot behind and made a stop at the small Natureworld Zoo.  Here I made friends with this Rock Python, but as soon as he started moving around my shoulders, our relationship was over! The finger is pointing in disbelief, “I have a snake around my neck!”

We petted koala’s and fed kangaroo’s, and so far the trip has been too wonderful to describe. There is much more to come, but that is for another day.

It was certainly a “Holy cow, how did they do that” kind of a vacation.  Thanks Harry and Linda. We are so appreciative of what you did to make this all possible and especially thankful that you were, after all your hard work, able to join us for the last two weeks of a never in my wildest dream come true vacation.

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Things I love about June

June is definitely one of my favorite months in the year because there are just so many special days and events that happen in June that I love.  When I think of this month with its lovely weather and many things to celebrate these are what comes to mind: 
 The very first thing is weddings.  June has always been a popular wedding month and 45 years ago I was happy to include mine on the first day of my favorite month.  Five years ago Dick and I celebrated our 40th anniversary with a Pennsylvania Pig Roast and a Hawaiian Luau all rolled into one big party. With over a hundred people in attendance from near and far, I surprised Dick by making an entrance wearing a remake of my wedding dress.  It had the desired affect on him, He broke out in a huge smile and took a step backward to give an approving glance. He in turn surprised me by having flowed leis sent in from the island for me and the three attendants who were all there.

This year, our 45th, was celebrated on a much quieter level.  We went to a nice restaurant in town for dinner and I slipped into the wedding dress remake for the first time in five years, leaving the train with the blue lining hanging in the closet.  Later we joined friends to watch the fireworks being put on by the college in town.  Why not a few fireworks for this celebration?  Couldn’t hurt.

 The next morning I was surprised again when the altar flowers at church had my name on them and I brought home this lovely arrangement of 4 white roses and 5 red ones given by my thoughtful husband who was always good at giving flowers at the right time or anytime.

 Here we are 45 years ago, in our Church in Honolulu after the ceremony.  Just a couple of kids in love.

 Speaking of roses, they are all abloom come June and these beauties below are huge and fragrant but,

 I also love these little dainty ones that climb garden walls and fences to brighten up every corner around a house.

 Strawberries, my favorite fruit, are abundant in June. I consider it my job and privlege to pick them fresh from the local fields to gorge on in season and to freeze for winter use, when I long for a taste of June in February.  I could eat a ton of them, plain, dipped in chocolate, on vanilla ice cream, 
 or sugared on shortcake.  This is my anniversary gift to Dick each year.  His first strawberry shortcake of the season.

If June is my favorite month, summer is on the top of my list for favorite seasons.  Longer days, slower pace, schools out, picnics and family gatherings are in.  Slippy sliding down Uncle Ken’s hill is the best on hot summer days.

 Everyone loves to get wet and soapy and snuggle up to a friend.

On this special family and friend day, there are carnival games in the Pine Tree Park at the foot of the hill and good times are had by all, every year.  This year will mark the 10th reunion of this wonderful addition to  family fun time.

If you know me at all, you know I love to travel, but for all the places I’ve been there is one country that is still my favorite. On June 14th we pay special tribute to the flag of The United States of America, and we proudly fly ours year round. Maybe it is just more grand flapping in the gentle breeze on a warm June evening, as opposed to the mighty winds we get here on the hill in other months.

June is dairy month!  Every farmers’ daughter knows that. It’s on my celebration list because I have always been a lover of milk and it reminds me of my cow lovin’ dad, whose birthday was also in June. There is something about cows grazing contentedly in a pasture that spells serenity on a lovely day in June.

 One of my dairy farmer dad’s favorite expressions of surprise was “holy cow!”  That is the reason I picked up this advertisement card while we were in Australia.  The card reminded me of him and if I would have had the chance to tell him we were going there he would have exclaimed—–

If you will tune into my blog next week I will tell you how we did that.  It is quite a story.
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