Letter #11: 25 November 2014

25 November 2014

G’day  Mates,

This week we’ve got a looong report – Adventures from Tasmania.  Lots of sights, lots of history and lots of animals.

We left very, very, early Monday morning, the only departing passengers to board the shuttle from the “Blue Emu” car park – the seven other people on board wore the black pants and white shirts emblazoned with SNP Security.  We arrived at the terminal in time to look through the mesh screen as those very same airport screeners calibrated the metal detectors in preparation to start the day of work.  Yes, the metal detectors work, but I found it very disconcerting that in both Sydney airport and Hobart airport, not once were we asked to provide any identification.  I had an SMS (text message) with our “boarding pass” on it, which I showed to the agent at the door of the jetway and she printed a boarding pass for each of us so we would know our seat assignments.  But she didn’t ask for an ID and the screeners didn’t even verify that we had boarding passes to get through security, much less check that we were who we said we were.  How very 1999 of them.

But soon (well, in a couple of hours, anyway) we were seated in a (that-aircraft –manufacturer-which-shall-not-be-named) A320 bound for Hobart, where we arrived so early that the Budget rental car cleaners were still vacuuming the fleet, but shortly we were on the road to the Tasman Peninsula.

On the way to Port Arthur we passed a lookout above Eaglehawk Neck with a view of Pirate Bay.  We drove down and took a look at an interesting geological feature, the Tessellated Pavement.  The rocks along the coastline are a mix of sandstone and dolerite.  Eons of salty ocean waves crashing over the rocks, have left bits of salt crystal which expand and contract leaving a series of straight-line cracks on the rock surface.   Today, the shoreline looks as if a tile setter had laid tiles on the beach, some slightly domed bread loaf shapes, where the cracks eroded more quickly leaving a curved top, and “pans,” where the surface eroded first, leaving the edges intact, raised above the flat base of the “pan.”  The lines are so straight, the giant who “laid” those stones must have been a master mason.

Back on the road we ran across our first wildlife – thank goodness we just ran across, not ran over! – an echidna.  They are slow-moving, egg-laying mammals, covered with spines.  Given how slow-moving they are, we had time climb out of the car, cross the road, and take some pictures.  Funny looking little things.  [As Mer indicated, we pulled over, got out of the car and crossed the road to take a closer look.  When we got near enough to be considered menacing the creature stopped, tucked its nose under its chest, and made itself into a little brown hemisphere studded with large yellow-gold quills, all pointing outward, a signal to the threatening world to back off.  We got the message and left it alone, though I did use the mysterious black box to steal its soul; the quills did little to discourage that.  It occurred to me later that I have known people {myself included} to adopt a metaphorically similar posture in similar circumstances.]

02EchidnaNearPtArthur

We continued on our way to the (you know the drill by now) World Heritage Listed… Port Arthur Historic Site.  The penal colony here was established in 1830, and by 1840, there were more than 2000 convicts, soldiers and civilian personnel living at the settlement.  Many of the buildings are still in existence, including the commandant’s and the junior surgeon’s residences.  These two are furnished much as they might have been during the early to mid-19th century – the bed in one room sporting a kangaroo fur throw.

The solitary prison, home to the most hardened offenders, however, was not quite so cozy.  The stone cells were small but serviceable.   Even in the chapel, the men were separated, attending the worship services in standing boxes- like little telephone booths.  The harshest punishment cells, perhaps 5 feet by 7 by 6 ½ lay behind four doors, and were completely sound- and light-proof.   It was haunting just to breathe the air on one of those tiny rooms.  I lasted 90 seconds with the door open before I had to get outside.

04AnIsolationCell

There is a lovely garden on the grounds, styled somewhat like an English garden, for the few officers’ wives to stroll in or sit and contemplate.  I think their lives must have been something of a struggle as there were so few women there, and they were responsible to attend not only to their husbands and families but also to their husband’s subordinates.  But whatever their struggles, they were nothing compared to those of the people in “the box.”

Part of the ticket to this site is a boat ride around Carnavon Bay, passing near Point Puer boys prison.  Lads as young as 9 years old were transported for various offences, most likely petty thievery.  Those boys had to be put somewhere, and for a while they were housed among the general prison population, which rather than have the desired effect of rehabilitation, became a school in how to commit more serious offences.  After a few years of that, one prison superintendent thought to separate the boys, placing them across the bay in their own unit.  This wasn’t standard prison procedure and he waited several months before reporting his experiment to his superiors back in England.  Our tour guide thought this was appropriately Australian of him.

The visitor experience at the site is quite extensive.  When you arrive you get your brochure/map, you get your lanyard and tour ticket, you get your boat ticket, you get your post card, and you get your playing card (for those keeping track, I had 20 items I had to disperse amongst our party of four, plus remembering the instructions of where and when to queue up for the grounds tour and where and when to assemble for the boat tour and my 3 a.m. wake-up call brain struggled a bit with these details.)  So what’s with the playing card, you ask.   Each card corresponds to a real-life prisoner.  You can find out who your guy was, and how he fared at Port Arthur.  I had the five of Hearts, Joseph Johnson, a baker from Portsmouth, England, convicted in January 1817 for an unknown offence, and sentenced to transportation for life.  He seems to have spent the first five years of his sentence at a penal station at Macquarie Harbour on the west coast of Van Diemen’s Land (aka Tasmania), but he was sent to Port Arthur on 19 February 1833 for stealing a shawl valued at 7 shillings.  He worked in a timber gang there because there was no vacancy in the cookhouse but in mid-1834 a position opened and he was promoted.  And that apparently turned his life around.  He was recommended for release in January 1835.  (I didn’t see any more info easily available as to what became of him, but looks like I might have a bit of a genealogical research problem, should I choose to go there…)  [I, by contrast, received the ten of hearts.  It turns out this card is associated with a guy whose name actually was Ten and he lived in a small village of Hearts, east of Eden.]

We arranged all of our accommodations on this trip through AirBnB which turned out to work well for us.  We stayed our first night at cozy little Brick Point Cottage on the shore of Carnavon Bay.  (http://brickpointcottage.com.au).  Steve barbequed some chicken, and Tori used the ingredients in her Chopped basket to fashion us a nice side dish of carrots with a Coca Cola reduction.  Yummy.

Just down the road is something called The Remarkable Cave (http://tasmaniaforeveryone.com.au/remarkable-cave.htm).  Water roars through it from the ocean, the retreating water yelling “I want out!” and the advancing water shouting back “Not in my house!”  We walked down to the viewing platform where you can look through the cave out to Maingnon bay.  The opening at the end of the cave is a perfect outline of the shape of Tasmania!  05RemarkableCaveTassieOn our way back up we saw a small macropod, perhaps a pandemelon or potoroo. We asked it what it was but it was busy munching so it ignored us.  We also saw a Superb Fairy Wren, not to be confused with the Splendid Fairy Wren or the Lovely Fairy Wren.  What we saw was definitely superb!07PoterooNearRemarkableCave

08MaingnonBayMorning

Tuesday morning some of us whose names were not Mary or Steve got up and drove back to Maingnon Bay to see the sunrise. 06MaingnonBay At a slightly more humane hour, all of us vacated Brick Point Cottage in favour of one more site on the convict trail, Coal Mines Historic Site, which was another place to employ/punish the outlaws of Van Diemen’s Land.   Port Arthur has the crowds, the visitor’s center, the tours, the guides.  Coal Mines is a place to be quiet and contemplative.  There were no guides to be found, other than a few shy potoroos and some jittery fairy wrens, but there were some really interesting display boards.  Mark took the artsy-fartsy landscape photos but most of the snaps I shot with my iPhone were of signs.  Let me share a few…”Coal for kitchens and drawing rooms, Coal that crackled and spat, Cinders on carpets and crinolines, Sparks on the hearthside cat.  Far from the warmth of the parlours, Deep in a gloom hole, Down on their knees in the darkness, Convicts hacked out the coal.”  There were some descriptions of Joseph Lacey, whose record of conduct describes him as “a vicious, bad fellow.”  He was a brickmaker who dabbled in highway robbery.  At the Coal Mines, he was made head overseer, and though he drunkenly abused the superintendent and was thrown back into the can, so to speak, his mining knowledge was more important than his manners, and he was shortly returned to his position after making a heartfelt apology which reads, in part, “…had it not been for my state of inebriety I should never have been guilty of the late folly.  Particularly knowing the respect due to an officer of your rank.”  Quite the sincere fellow.  [The way in which the in information was presented was unusual.  Instead of the usual rectangular signboard held up at right angles to the ground, they often used bits of text and pictures attached to lumber lying on the ground or propped up at angles.  The impression you got from these was less rectilinear as well, like gathering meaning from stuff that is just lying around.  I liked it.]

04FroggartJamesUseless

We left the Tasman peninsula and headed north, skipping the main road and taking the “short cut” through the Wielangta forest.  The washboard road made no friends among the two butts in the back seat, and was probably not on the Budget rental agency list of approved roads, but we saw some unspoilt wilderness.  Though, I must say in an island roughly the size of Ireland or West Virginia, with a population of a mere 500,000, probably 90% of the land is unspoilt.  We stopped for a picnic lunch in Orford and continued north along Great Oyster Bay toward Cranbrook to taste some fine Tasmanian pinot noirs and chardonnays.

We first stopped at Gala Estate.  The green weatherboard tasting room there had been home to Theodore “Ted” Castle, and had few improvements made since the days of his pioneer ancestors.  Ted had continued to cook on a cast iron stove and heat his water in a copper boiler.  (https://www.galaestate.com.au/index.php/visit-us/4-visit-us).  He passed away in 2009, and now the property is owned by Adam Greenhill and his wife, Grainne.  As she poured her wines and told us about Ted, her Derry, Northern Ireland accent had Tori thinking we were at “Tad’s” place. (Vowels are hard – an experience later in the week with a Tasmanian named Murray had all of us confused at his pronunciation of his name which sounded far more like my own name than any Murray I’ve heard – I’m not sure how he pronounced my name.)

We were going to have a few more nights in Tasmania, so one winery was not enough and we stopped at Freycinet (Fray-si-nay) Vineyard for a few more sips and a few more bottles.  Soon we were at our home for the next two nights, Blue Waters, (https://www.airbnb.com.au/rooms/4113665) in the beach town of Bicheno.  Basset owns the home, but he’s off working in Queensland, so his very friendly mom, Gail, checked us in.  She gave us some great tips, most importantly letting us know we could skip the $30/head Penguin Tour and see the little critters all on our own, just half a block down the road, hang a left and walk ‘til you get to the beach.  And so after dinner, that’s just what we did.

Sunset was at 8:06.  The Fairy Penguin, also known as the Little Penguin or the Blue Penguin come in from a day of ocean fishing, just as dark sets in.  The 45 cm tall birds waddle up the beach, or in our case, rocks, in groups of 2 or 3 or a few more.  The four of us sat quietly on our rock and waited for the show.  The little critters didn’t disappoint.  Do you all have the soundtrack in your heads?  “Oh, it’s a jolly holiday with Mary, no wonder that it’s Mary that we love!”  We watched several groups pass by and when it seemed no more waddles of penguins would be coming, we headed off the rocks toward the bushes along the path, where the penguins make their homes.  It was a little too dark to take many worthwhile photos but I’ve got quite a few memories of watching the silly little critters shuffling along in the dark.

09BluePenguinsComeAshore10LittleBluePenguinNearBicheno

Wednesday was earth, sea and sky day.  We drove a few kilometres north of Bicheno to Natureworld, a wildlife park.  When we first began exploring the park, I think each of us was perhaps a bit disappointed with what appeared to be a bit run-down, tired facility.  But as we moved through the park coming upon the wallabies who were so excited to see the Roddys and Prestons with those little white bages of yummy roo chow, our impressions of the place perked up.  11MerFeedsWallabiesAnd by the time we got to the Tasmanian devil feeding with Chris, we were hooked.  14DevilsAndPossumTailTugWe all learned so much and really gained an appreciation of what places like Natureworld and the other wildlife parks of Tasmania are doing to address the plight of this endangered species.  12AJoeyAtNatureWorldAside from the wallabies and devils, we got to see emus, heaps of birds, kangaroos (more up-close-and-personal opportunities! – as I was feeding a doe, a young joey ambled over and disappeared into her pouch).  We also got some great one-on-one time with an 11-month-old wombat, orphaned after his mother was hit by a car. 13LittleWombatCU

After Natureworld we headed south to Freycinet National Park.  We’ve discovered that “national park” has a bit of an odd definition here.  The entry fee was a bit steep – $24 for a one-day pass – but they also have a $60 pass, good for 8 weeks.  We thought that might be a good alternative, considering that our daughter, Melinda, will be joining us soon, and we might get a pass and use it for several national parks while she’s here.  When I inquired about the pass, however, I learned it’s only good for the national parks… in Tasmania.  So really, it’s just a state park pass.  Not quite sure why they’re called “national” parks if they’re not part of a “national” system, but this may help to give a bit of an explanation to Mark and my question as to how there can be so very many national parks right here in our own neighborhood of the Shire – they’re more like Camp Wooten or Camp Taylor than Mount Rainier or Yosemite.  But back to Freycinet…  Yeah, even though it’s a national park for just Tasmania, I think this one would qualify as a national national park.  We had a limited amount of time due to a booking we’d made for 4 p.m. (more about that later) so we picked a short-ish hike, up to the Wineglass Bay Lookout.  (That’s where the sky part of the day comes in.)  Up, up, up the trail and the 300+ granite steps interspersed in various locations on the path, we made it up to see the beautiful panorama before us.  16WineGlassBayWe took a few pictures but didn’t linger long because we had a schedule to meet – it may be a jolly holiday with Mary, but you know she’s planned several activities, so no dilly dallying, Jane and Michael (or Tori and Steve).

Now for the sea…we drove to Coles Bay to rendezvous with Murray of Freycinet Adventures (http://www.freycinetadventures.com.au/freycinet-sea-kayaking) for our 3-hour sea kayak tour of the eastern coastline of Great Oyster Bay.  The Freycinet Paddle was listed as the #4 must-do experience in Australia on the Nine Network’s “Things to Try Before you Die,” so you know it must be something special, and indeed it was.  It was a glorious afternoon, and the wind was down (at least for most of the paddle.)  Our party consisted of three double kayaks for Mary and Mark, Tori and Steve, Kaylee and Ian (a couple from Brisbane) and one single for Murray.  After a brief lesson in paddling and getting out of an overturned kayak (just in case!) we put in at Muir’s Beach and crossed the water to Parson’s Cove.  There we saw the remnants of an early-20th century granite quarrying operation.  That very same operation provided the stone which lines the lobby walls of the Empire State Building. We beached the kayaks at Honeymoon Bay for afternoon tea break and then paddled back across the bay to get some great pictures of us in the kayaks18M&MKayakingBeforeHazardMtnsV2 with the Hazard Mountains (and the Wineglass Bay lookout where we had been hiking just a few short hours before) as a backdrop.  17Steve&ToriFreycinetKayakWildlife spotting included some sea eagles and a heron.  We treated ourselves to a nice dinner in Bicheno but by the time the meal was over, I’m afraid there was not much left in any of our tanks to go looking for more penguins and we just went home and crashed.  [In my defense as the designated driver throughout the trip I will clarify: I parked the car safely and appropriately and then went inside and was asleep in short order.]

Thursday we went back to Freycinet to drive up to the Cape Tourville Lookout.  Saw two wallabies along the way!  There’s a lighthouse up there and it appears you can see forever.  As I mentioned earlier, I’ve been photographing signs, and there was one there that had me laughing all day – “Freycinet National Park was declared in 1916 – one of the first two national parks in Tasmania (along with Mount Field.)”  ONE of the first two, eh?  Let’s all put our thinking caps on and see if between us we can figure out if it was the first or the second… hmmmmm, thinking…. thinking…  Well, I think we all have an idea, but anyone out there want to make a field trip to read the sign at Mount Field to confirm our suspicions?

The clock on our 24-hour national park pass expired so we left the east coast behind us and headed to Ross.  It’s a charming little historic village and in it you can find one of five Female Factories in Tasmania.  (No, they didn’t actually manufacture females there.)  A female factory was built to house women during the convict era who were waiting assignment with a private employer, awaiting childbirth or weaning children, or undergoing punishment.  The women would be taught useful skills and presumably improve their lot in life.  As with much of convict-era Tasmania, the factory today is mostly a ruin, with bits of the archeology preserved.

We drove on and reached Hobart, the capital of Tasmania, late in the afternoon.  I think we were all just happy to be out of the car.  We stayed at another AirBnB, Jacinta House (https://www.airbnb.com.au/rooms/4129750).  It had a great view of kunayi (Mount Wellington), but probably a better view when it isn’t obscured by the clouds.

19Tori&MerAtopMtWellington

Mary, on her way down from the top of the mountain.

We summited Mount Wellington Friday.  Twice!  Quite the adventure.  We drove to the carpark at the top, elevation 1271 metres.  We were ensconced in a cloud and the wind was howling.  There were a few flakes of snow coming down in the rain.  Steve had sense enough to stay in the car, but Tori, Mark and I headed for the Pinnacle, to scramble to the summit.  Mark took a picture of Tori at the very tippy top and one of me on my way down.  (I’m sure I was on my way down.  From the top.  At least that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.)  We walked to the visitor’s outlook on the eastern cliff of the mountain, overlooking Hobart and the Derwent river, and all the way out to Port Arthur.  At least that’s what all the brass signs proclaimed.  All we saw was the inside of a cloud.

We headed back down the road toward Hobart and stopped at The Springs picnic area about halfway down the mountain.  There had been an old chalet/health spa that was destroyed in the bush fires of 1967, but we walked around the site, and tried to photograph the darting fairy wrens.  After a pit stop near the picnic grounds we got back in the car and in about ten seconds Tori realized she didn’t have her eyeglasses.  She’d taken them off and slipped them into her pocket when she was up at The Pinnacle because they were all wet, so they must have fallen out when she was in the bathroom or when got her camera out to take pictures of the wrens.  Back to the bathrooms.  Everybody out of the car and looking.  No glasses.  Back to the chalet and wrens.  Everybody out of the car and looking.  No glasses.  Back up to the visitor’s overlook.  Tori and I got out and looked while Mark and Steve continued on up to the Pinnacle.  No glasses in the overlook, but at least the clouds had parted just a teeny bit and I got a glimpse of the river.  Tori retraced her steps all the way up to the summit and there, just where she had slipped them NEXT to her pocket, not INTO her pocket, were her glasses.  That prayer to St. Anthony finally paid off.

Here’s one more instance where I love the fact that I have this weekly letter to write.  Imagine you’re on vacation, and you go up to the mountain viewpoint and the weather’s crappy and there’s no view and if that weren’t bad enough, your sister loses her glasses so you’ve got to go back up and waste more time looking for the darn things.  Grumble, grouse, grrrr. Right?  But no.  This blogging experience has totally put me into the mindset that nothing is ever really bad – it’s all just another story to tell.  So many thanks to all of you for giving me a Little Mary Sunshine attitude even up on the top of crappy cold rainy foggy snowy Mount Wellington.

And yes, it even got a little crappier on the way down – 90 seconds down the road from the top the skies opened up and we couldn’t see 10 feet in front of the car it was raining so much.  Yikes!  Thank goodness it didn’t last too long and chauffeur Mark got us all down safely.

Just at the base of the mountain is the Cascades Brewery, Australia’s oldest operating brewery, opened in 1832.  We thought it would be fun to see, particularly with Steve, the home-brewer.  Nearby is also the Cascade Female Factory, which at least one of us (ok, probably ONLY one of us) thought would be fun to see as well.  We’d booked a 2:15 brewery tour and given the Great Wellington Glasses Incident, there wasn’t time for lunch and the Female Factory visit, so while my companions dined on fish and chips and shepherd’s pie, I scarfed down a few more convict tales at the FF and met them back at the brewery just in time for the tour.  Note to tourists retracing our steps – don’t book the Friday afternoon tour.  It seems that sometime around noon on Friday, the brewers and bottlers have met their weekly quota of product and reached that well-deserved hour when they can stop making beer and start drinking it.  The tank rooms and machine shop and bottling line were as vacant as a Female Factory ruin, so we had to listen to our guide (not even a Tasmanian, he was a bloody Pom, for goodness sake!) tell us about what goes on rather than actually seeing it.  But still at the end of your brewery/ghost town tour, you get to spend those four tokens that come with your $25 tour ticket on some of the product.  Only, if you wait til Friday arvo to take your tour, the main tasting room might be taken up with a private party, so you might get shuffled off to the auxiliary bar, but maybe that room is full with the very raucous folks who just finished the Cascades Heritage Tour five minutes ago and they’re crowding around the bar and the one bartender to serve 45 people, so you might get shuffled further into some other room which has chairs lined up against the walls with some old historical photos hung above them.  The Pom did bring in a few pitchers of beer to serve us – gratis, didn’t even have to spend our tokens – until we could scratch and claw our way up to the bar like Tasmanian devils and order something from there.

20MarkMerToriSteve

While Tori and I were scratching and clawing, Mark was out in the gardens and met 60-year-old Pete, the longest-serving employee of Cascade – 44 years!  Perhaps a bit disgruntled with life at Cascade, he’s seen many changes as corporate buyouts and automation have decimated the ranks of employees from 200+ line workers (plus the administrative staff) down to 60 or so total employees.  He laughed at the “factory tour” with guides brought in from elsewhere (like England) who’ve never worked in the brewery and simply regurgitate the stories that somebody told somebody to tell them to tell.  We sat for half an hour or so with him while he drank his pint (a real pint) and we sipped our sub-schooner sized glasses (token samples.)  He took a break from our company for another pour and asked if any of us wanted something.  My glass being empty, I said I’d like another cider and started to pull one of my tokens out.  “Nah, I don’t need that.  They just give me whatever I ask for.”  A few minutes later he returned with his pint and for me, a fresh glass and a full bottle.  “Sorry,” he smiled, “all I could get was the whole bottle for you.”    It was a nice way to cap off the afternoon – we started with kind of a theme-park perspective of Cascade but finished with an insider’s view.  [I will add that Pete was more than a little disgruntled.  I had taken a few pictures in the garden and was heading in to find the others.  I was about to walk by Pete when he spoke to me as I approached.  “It’s not all it’s cracked up to be, mate.”  This was the beginning of a fairly scathing indictment of the corporate culture that, in his view, has oozed over, absorbed and pretty much submerged what was once a fine place to make a living.  Considering the comparable changes that are creeping across my workaday world in academia even as we speak, it made me sad.  But Pete has a relatively good attitude.  He has a life outside of work and he looks forward to retirement.]

The weather in the afternoon improved greatly and by dinnertime we supped on the Emmalisa, one of Hobart’s historic ferries.  [And, yes, if you are getting the pictures and you look even just a little closely, behind the Emmalisa you will the Sea Shepherd’s “Bob Barker.”  21EmmaLisaBobBarkerWhat was this modern day pirate ship doing in Hobart?  Only the Sea Shepherd wizards and the CIA know for sure but we did spy them anchored in beautiful Wine Glass Bay a couple of days earlier with their runabout zipping around.  Practicing maneuvers?  We can only hope…]  They have a 2-hour dinner cruise from the Victoria dock, north along the western shore of the Derwent past the botanical gardens and government house, under the Tasman bridge, across the river to Lindisfarne and Rose Bay and back under the bridge for a tour of the south end of the estuary and the view homes along Sandy Bay and the historical neighborhood of Battery Point and back to the piers.  We had a beautiful view of the top of Mount Wellington from the water, quite the reverse of our morning.22ToriSteveAboardEmmalisa1

Saturday we strolled through Hobart’s famous Salamanca Market, the most visited attraction in Tasmania.  Lots of jewelry, woodwork and food stalls – beautiful jams, chocolates and even a tasty salmon sausage.  Yum.  Picked up a few gifts.  We walked around the Battery Point neighborhood.  The roses in the gardens are incredible, huge blooms!  We looked at the art in a small gallery.  I didn’t care for the paintings inside, but the cottage was beautiful – 1840s bluestone, and there were some cool funky sculptures in the garden.  We made our way back to the airport and soon left The Apple Isle behind.

Sunday was forecast to be in the upper 30s so we thought something on the water would keep us cool and be a good final activity with Tori and Steve.  We boarded the Tom Thumb III, sister to the Curanella ferry, for a cruise on Port Hacking.  24TheCurranullaWe picked the 10:30 sailing mostly because it would leave the afternoon free if the travelers had any last minute packing or something else to do, but that had the delightful consequence that it fell at quite a high tide.  The cruise travels as far up the Hacking River as it can, but with the tide we had, we were able to ride it all the way up to the Audley weir in the Royal National Park.  The voyage was filled with sights of Shire folk enjoying a Sunday on the water –sailboats and motorboats of every size, jetskis zooming about, fishermen and fisherwomen and fisherchildren angling from the riverbanks or wading in the water, teenage boys doing flips and dives from high rocks into the river below, kayaking children and kayaking grannies, and even a stand-up paddleboarder balancing an Esky full of bottled beverages on his board.

High tide in the morning means low tide in the arvo, perfect to introduce Tori to the joys of a walk across Gunnamatta Bay.  As we walked toward the water, we passed boatless families enjoying the parks and beaches along the shoreline.  They had their floaties and fishing rods, their rugby balls and sand buckets.  In Gunnamatta park there were several groups of seven or eight people, young men and old ladies in burqas seated around a hookah, whiling away the afternoon.  Tori and I walked quite far across the sandy spit, water up to our mid-shins.  I know she found it a little unnerving to be in the middle of the water so far from shore, but she gamely forged on. Tori in Gunnamatta bay It was good we turned back when we did however, because as the afternoon progressed, the wind picked up and we felt a few raindrops as we reached dry land.  We rounded out the day with a picnic dinner on the beach, looking out across the Pacific.

Sorry to have been so verbose, but as you can see, we had many adventures.  Alas, Tori and Steve flew home Monday morning and I’m afraid I’ll spend most of my week catching up on work.  And preparing Thanksgiving dinner, Australian-American style.  I’ll have a full report next week.  In the meantime, enjoy your turkey and football.

Love,

Mary [and Mark]

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