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On Granite Island

 

granite island

Of the bounteous opportunities we have here clinging to the southern coast of this wide land, circumnavigating Granite Island is, for mine, among the best for our occasionally battered souls.

Beautifully situated an hour from Adelaide and connected umbilically to Victor Harbor (note the inexplicable American spelling) by a causeway, Alex, Max and I set out enthusiastically in the gap between Easter and Anzac Day (depending on your view, either two grim or celebratory holidays) as the affirming autumnal sun drenched us with healthy effervescence.

The horse-drawn tram was also on holiday (possibly still partying in honour of the equine heroine Winx) so, gun-barrel straight, we galloped across to the island with the boys chatting ceaselessly and in that lovely, unconscious, yet stream-of-conscious way only the young and excited can.

Their old man was buoyant too so for reasons I still can’t quite unpack we found ourselves at the kiosk prior to and not following our moderate exercise. Like a pickpocketed Dickensian character, before I knew it the boys had persuaded me into a pair of chocolate milkshakes.

pulp

Such is the passage of time and the unrelenting effects of inflation that the $5 milkshake Mia Wallace and Vincent Vega shared in Pulp Fiction had long since lost its shock value and Alex and Max briskly slurped their $6 refreshments, completely unaware of any cultural and fiscal dissonance with the iconic filmography of Quentin Tarantino.

We trekked in an anticlockwise fashion and shared the gravel path with folk from across the seas and across the road. It was one of those utterly self-contained moments in which we were constantly in the company of others, yet felt no need to interact, or to broaden our world beyond our complete, little bubble. Some days, we is all we need.

Happily, however, the boys were unrelenting in interrogating the island. They rushed constantly along the path, before like an old sea dog, or Quint from Jaws, I reeled them in. They scrambled up and over the smoothed and the ragged outcrops while paying attention to my startled wishes that they not endanger either themselves or the part of me that suffers from incurable and eternal risk assessment.

rock

On the island’s southern edge Alex declared, “The ocean here is normally cold as there’s nothing between us and Antarctica.” I felt gratitude for his global insight as I reflected upon my own worldview at his age which was, “Gee, Angaston Oval is a muddy poop-heap in August.”

The town-side of Granite Island hosts a distinctive ancient tree with stripped limbs enticing young climbers. Each branch appears as a blonde vaulting horse and indeed, upon our last visit Alex was riding its sturdy frame until, like a character in a deleted scene from Blazing Saddles, he slipped several feet directly onto another blonde bough in a way that I could tell, caused considerable shock to both his face and his groin. I could almost hear a fast-plucked banjo. I may have yelped.

On Wednesday’s lap Max spied this friendly foe and yelled, “Alex! Alex! Here’s the nut-breaker. Here’s the nut-breaker!” With this public declaration I expected either a rush of Asian tourists seeking autographs, or a rush of Asian tourists desperately seeking higher ground, but neither eventuated.

tree

Rounding the gentle final curve we took in the long sweep of Encounter Bay and The Bluff, and bemoaned the old, dry hills. A week or so back Alex had declared that when he was older he’d live in Victor Harbor because it was “really cool.” Max then countered how he was going to dwell in the viticultural gem that is South Australia’s Clare Valley.

Of course, he added in what really should be a surprise to no-one, “And Utah.”

We then eased onto the sparkling causeway and the boys, like tightrope walkers, tried to travel the entire distance balancing on a single rail-track before we reached the car, sitting patiently by The Crown Hotel.

A few minutes later we were barbequing our lunch just behind the clean, dappled beach.

causeway

 

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Round a Table with Old Friends

galah

The Grand Canyon is mightily impressive. So is the Eiffel Tower. The best beach I’ve seen is Ko Lanta in Thailand, where the sand is soft and the water is azure blue and clear as glass.

I’ve been lucky to go on some amazing holidays and see some amazing sites.

I’ve just returned from a quick holiday to Kimba, on the state’s west coast, where the most captivating site wasn’t the Big Galah, but a succession of tables.

Yes, tables. Tables loaded with stories and laughter. Tables with old friends around them. Perfect.

And around these tables the best stories are the familiar ones; the ones you know as well as the back of your hands; the stories that make you smile instantly because you can recite the details and the dialogue like an old song, and you know how they finish and like a kid at Christmas you can hardly wait for the punchline, and then, when you hear it you roar, like a drain, but probably louder than you did the last time you sat at this table with these old friends.

Thanks to the tables I enjoyed in Kimba, Coffin Bay and Buckleboo. Golf club tables, pub tables, front deck tables, kitchen tables, coffee tables.

Breakfast tables, lunchtime tables, first beer of the day tables, BBQ tables, Saturday night and folks are getting rowdy tables.

The Crows are playing, but leave the tele off tables. The go on, text Mozz and check how old he is tables. The remember when Hen sprayed his opening drive at Port Augusta and went straight back to bed tables?

I love a table.

So, now I’m out the back at home, writing this, sitting at a table. The rain has stopped and above the vague traffic there’s birdsong and laughter from the kids in the house behind us.

I’m already thinking about the next time I sit round a table with old friends. Sometimes you don’t need a Thai beach, but just a welcoming table.

 

 

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A birthday in Budapest

stein

Friday 15 June 2001- Michael

Early start to go to the Hungarian Embassy. Twenty people also waiting to use their services. $350 later we had our visas.

Those present had a loose grasp of queueing. Stand roughly in line, but sneak up and let your friends in when possible.

Then wandered through the city centre. Bought a new Minolta camera- very snazzy and easy to use (pre-digital too- Editor). The museums, galleries, churches are all grand and attractive. We took lots of photos.

Now Kerry-

Got lost for the first time when meeting our group after lunch. Got there just in the nick of time.

Went for a tour of Schönbrunn (beautiful spring) the summer palace of the Hapsburgs. Very grand, very beautiful, very big: in total over 1,400 rooms. We saw just a few. The ball rooms and the room of mirrors were the best (as attested by Roy Slaven- Editor).

After we stopped at the Prater for a while. This big amusement park had lots of attractions, the main one being the wheel, an older version of the London Eye.

Time for some domestic chores upon our return to the motel- washing. Found a laundromat after asking reception then at the police station (Detergent Detectives- Editor) on the way. Figuring out how to use it was interesting but we got there in the end. We wasted 30 schillings on the way- the total cost was 160 schillings or $23.

By this time we were fairly hungry having missed breakfast and lunching at 11 so we decided to stop for some traditional fare on the way back to the motel. Schnitzel and Cordon Bleu and Salat. All of them were lovely but of course they were pork (the wife has since converted to all forms of pig- Editor) and washed down with a few beers and a red. YUM.

Saturday 16/6 Michael’s Birthday

Up early on our way to Budapest. Got a couple apricot-filled buns as Michael’s cake. Our first border crossing- thank god for those visas. There were ten other buses lined up but we got through in about an hour. We also had to get our receipt for our new camera stamped at customs so we can claim our tax back.

Drove through the country to the hills on the way to Lake Balaton. Was interested to hear that they intend to start an archaeological dig on the high plateau soon as they expect to find old Roman remains.

Lake Balaton is beautiful. We had to wait twice for a big procession of motorbikes to pass- some big international meet.

We stopped for lunch in a little town called Tihany on a small peninsula in the lake- itself featuring two volcanic lakes. Our meal at a hotel in the main street was superb! Michael had paprika chicken and potato coquettes and we shared a salad. Michael also had a big birthday beer- locally brewed and served in a big stein. He wanted another- several in fact but decided to have just a small one (my famous restraint- Editor).

Another interesting restaurant just up the road- Paprikahaus had zillions of dried chillies hanging from it. The lake area is a popular holiday spot and there were lots of people sailing, swimming and fishing. Curious tit bits- the water looks milky green and it is about three miles down in the deepest part. Next stop Budapest- with our regular afternoon bus snooze.

We were excited when we saw our motel and room- very nice compared to the one in Vienna! Dinner was included- another real treat- pork, mushrooms, peas, capsicum and to top it all off- LIVER! Apart from this I think Michael had an enjoyable 35th birthday.

Back to Michael-

Yes, he did. The Danube boat cruise was good although we couldn’t hear our tour guide: no microphone. The Danube is about as wide as the Murray but flows quickly. We saw some impressive historical and public buildings like castles, statues, parliament houses that I’m sure will be on tomorrow’s itinerary.

Finished off the day in fine style. It was a day when I was spoilt, ate great food, split the time between two countries, had some tender moments with the girl and gained some precious memories.

ph

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Galloping about Greenwich and Abba Adventures

abba

June 7- Kerry

Up and at ‘em early today. Down the road to Piccadilly Circus where we had the place to ourselves and it was so quiet.

We walked along Regent Street to Waterloo Place and down onto The Mall. Followed this along to Buckingham Palace and was impressed by the Victoria Monument but less by the palace. What you can see is big and grey with big black and gold gates. Mmm…

The best bit was it was so quiet- there was hardly anyone else around- a dozen at the most. We did a lap around the palace- ‘tis big- and saw Wellington’s monument and gate at Hyde Park Corner. Once around we went through St James’ Park to the Horse Guards’ ground. The park is lovely and we had a bit of a chat with a nice, chummy guy about the birds.

Went to have a look through Westminster Abbey but it was shut (hope to go back) so went up the road to the Portrait Gallery instead. After this we went to the tourist info and had a huge Pizza Pig-out before sprinting back to the hostel for a cat nap (all hail the restorative powers of pizza- editor).

A couple of hours later we were up and at ‘em again although our body clocks still not caught up and we headed off to the British Museum. Lots of Greek and Roman- too many and we had overload. A few highlights include the Rosetta Stone, Egyptian mummies and the Sutton Hoo, an ancient burial ship from East Anglia, which was very cool. Next stop was the Easy Everything internet shop to catch up with everyone at home.

June 8 (a Friday)- Kerry

A few domestic chores in the morning (No, I didn’t paint the roof of our hostel- Editor) and we set off about ten. Interestingly, the fire alarm went off in the hostel earlier so we grabbed our valuable and went down stairs only to find it was a false alarm. Thank God- I was still in my PJ’s with no undies as they were all in the wash- not a good look in the middle of London (less so in Dubai-Editor).

Hoped on a ferry at Westminster Pier for a trip to Greenwich and the flood barriers. The bar maid was late (Tardy, not deceased- Editor), the driver come guide was informative and funny, the sights were interesting. The bridges good, the Millennium Dome ugly, the flood barriers strange.

Stopped off at Greenwich and hopped straight about the Cutty Sark for a look- interesting. Up the street to a pub for lunch and a beer/shandy and a rest. Then up the hill to Greenwich Park. Didn’t go to the observatory- too expensive and queue too long so we missed out standing astride the Meridian Line.

Up the hill found the 2,500-year-old Roman remains- disappointing to say the least. Further up the way we saw our first squirrel- fleetingly as it was chased up a tree by a dog. Back down the hill past the Queens House and Naval College- more impressive old buildings before going under the Thames through the Greenwich foot-tunnel which was cool. Popped up the other side and caught the DLR back to the city- goodbye Greenwich, we ‘joyed you.

Emerged out from the underground by chance at the Monument, built to commemorate the Great Fires of London- interesting tit bit: if the monument was laid on its side to the east its top would be in Pudding Lane where the fire was supposed to have started in the Royal Bakers Kitchen (who’d have thought so much destruction could be connected with a pudding? – Editor).

Walked home past St. Paul’s- very impressive- hope to go back and have a look inside.

On our very long walk back we decided to go via Leicester Square to get cheap tickets to see the Graduate. As it turns out we couldn’t see it that night so we got tickets for Mamma Mia instead. It rocked me, give me (sic- Editor) that feeling, rolled me…

 

greenwich

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Our first ever day in London

sign

June 5- Michael

Thankfully the London flight was only just over half full so we had a spare seat next to us which made the journey better. My initial seat decided to break during take-off and lurched back onto the poor sod behind. The trolley-dolly and my travelling companion both denied any problem, but ultimately understood.

We watched All the Pretty Horses, Sweet November and Anti-Trust. Our arrival at Heathrow was exciting until the poxy, mongrel bastard ATM ate my card. Had coffee and coopa-tea.

June 5 (continued)- Kerry

The bus was ye goode olde fashioned red double decker. The trip was really enjoyable- we got off early to see a bit of greater London. The bus dropped us off at the end of Oxford Street, near Marble Arch- at the corner of Hyde Park and we walked the rest of the way.

This turned into a major feat- no map and only a vague idea (This became a major theme in our travels over the next fifteen years- Editor). Eventually we made it after asking for directions several times and then ringing the hostel.

The room is interesting. Small, a bunk, a cupboard and a sink. It overlooks a construction site. The kitchen and lounge are clean and comfy. There is internet access, a laundry and lots of tit-bits for sale at reception.

After a shower to freshen up we hit the streets- very tired, but needing to stay awake as it was the middle of the day. Four hours sleep in over 24 is not enough.

First stop; lunch at Benji’s on Oxford Street- then a quick trip home for a jumper and umbrella then we were off. Bought a map at a local stall and there was no stopping us. We zig-zagged through the streets of Soho down to St Martins-in-the-Fields church.

Across the road, Trafalgar Square is very impressive. Down Whitehall, past Admiralty Arch, the old war offices in Downing Street, onto the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben and across the way to Westminster Abbey- back to this another day for a look inside too.

Next down to the river just near Westminster Bridge and pier- there’s a good view across the river to the London Eye and the county hall. Walked along the Victoria Embankment up to Cleopatra’s Needle. Very impressive because of its age, but also because of the bog holes and missing chunks from bombing during the war. Also, interested to read that the embankment is only fairly new in the big scheme of things and the river’s edge was in fact about 150 metres from its current position.

Took a photo here of the gate that was once the river’s edge- of course I can’t think of its name at the moment! (Google it, kids- Editor). Made our way to Leicester Square and through Chinatown in Soho to a pub called the White Horse. Looked like a good old English pub- turns out three Aussies and a Kiwi work there. Anyway, the beer and shandies were great.

Walked past a theatre on the corner playing The Graduate- hope to come back and catch it one night. On the way home, we stopped at the supermarket to get a few supplies- things were reasonably priced, then up Berwick Street past the markets which were just packing up.

Back at out hostel we stored our stuff and had a drink before going to bed. Walked around a bit trying to find a good pub and ended up in the Blue Posts for a quick one, then hysterically tired, headed home to bed- still daylight, but four hours sleep in over 36 is just not enough.

In bed at 8pm and not many minutes with the head on the pillow before drifting off into a well-earned long sleep.

bp

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Giga-Mega Frappuccinos and Kenny Rogers Roasters

krr

June 4- Kerry

RE-LAX! Spent the day “resorting it up!” After another filling buffet breakfast we spent loads of time lazing around the pool, chatting and soaking up the resort lifestyle.

After hitting the banana lounges I went for a bit of a shop and haggled with the locals whilst Michael read the paper. We followed this with a leisurely swim, sun bake and chat- mostly about the chubby chick in the bikini across and how I compared to her.

I should make a note here as Michael forgot to mention it yesterday that I had my first stop in a “funny dunny” at Penang Hill. No big deal really- just a surprise as I wasn’t expecting it. My mission was accomplished!

Meanwhile back at the resort- a few domestic chores later- washing in the bathtub and hanging it out to dry all around the room and we were taking a leisurely stroll along the beach. Michael contemplated- only for a short while I think- going parasailing.

Before we knew it, it was beer o’clock. Yes, both of us! Well, I had shandies. We sat, we drank, we chatted, we read, we relaxed!

Pretty soon it was time to head off for another feed. We had a lovely Indian meal and checked out a few more market stalls. Back at the motel we had a nightcap- no one makes margaritas like I do! And listened to the minstrels play to those wining and dining around the pool. I have little to report after this except waking up in the wee hours of the morning to an amazing thunderstorm. It was beautiful lying in bed listening and watching the sky light up all snuggled up. I could spend lots more nights like it.

June 5- Kerry

Got a ride into downtown Georgetown mid-morning. We shared the car with an elderly couple from Melbourne who gave us lots of little tips on where to go and what to see. After a lap through the tower complex and around the block trying to find our way to the top and the observation deck we finally got there. Straight up to the 58th floor in 25 seconds. A bit daggy up there, but the view was good.

Our next stop was Starbucks coffee shop (Dr Evil’s frickin’ lair- editor) in the new, not even full shopping complex. We sipped a couple of giga-mega frappachinos and played snakes and ladders. I let Michael win.

What followed was the most interesting part of our stay- a walk down to, and through Chinatown. There were hawkers and markets and cats and dogs and strange smells and exotic fruits and t-shirts and hats and shoes and HEAT. Michael’s man-boobs got a real sweat up and his shirt was WET!

Next we had a look around the new shopping complex. Just the usual really apart from our luncheon venue. The most amazing eatery ever- Kenny Rogers Roasters- featuring the one and only Kenny Rogers. There’s music and photos and wood fire roasted chickens. Michael was in denial, me, I just tapped my toes and sang my heart out between mouthfuls. It really is going to take a lot to beat!

storm

 

 

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“With the curry singing in our mouths and doubtless by morning, stinging in our shorts…”

funicular

In June and July of 2001 Kerry and I backpacked through Europe. We kept a diary. Here’s the first entry.

June 2- We’re Off (Kerry)

A surprising number of people at the airport to see us off- Mum and Dad times two, Jill and Barry, Bobby and Kay. I couldn’t believe how smoothly things had gone all morning and how calm I was. Tres chilled!

A short flight to Melbourne- we checked out the duty free prices and bought some fab mags for the flight. Back on board- next stop KL! A long, but OK flight! Great food- both impressed with the chocolate cake, giant twin ice cream, small top deck chocolate, carrot cake and a couple glasses of red. I think there were some vegies and salads and stuff thrown in there somewhere!

Watched a few movies: Chocolat- A, Miss Congeniality- C, Head Over Heels- Z (not worth googling- editor). About ten hours later we touched down in KL. The airport is big: Asia’s second biggest behind Honkers, and things were a little tense for a while there, but we asked a lot of questions and finally found where to go.

The flight to Penang was much shorter, but it was very late and had been a long day and we couldn’t wait to get there. Then was the half-hour mini bus ride to our motel- up and down some steep, winding roads in the rain and home time was after 1 in the morning- very tired and emotional at this stage! (Me too! – editor)

Finally, we get to our room- disappointment as it has twin beds so Michael had to go back to reception, but we had to take it. They would put us in a new room in the morn.

So finally- after twenty hours on the got we dropped off into a well-earned coma.

June 3- Michael

Surprisingly, we were not pronounced dead and began our first real day with breakfast. Turkey bacon is interesting. Do local criminals, when stung by a police raid cry, “Run for it, it’s the turkeys!”

Penang Hill and the funicular railway was our main achievement. Paying 40 RM for the taxi ride our first tourist transaction- and first rip off. Shortly after, whilst in the queue a lively storm soaked us. Two hours later we were on the train. It’s such a steep ascent that it appears as if you are crawling out of a tunnel or hole.

The views were amazing. Georgetown and its scattered towers, the blue hills, Butterworth in the distance and the striking Penang Bridge. From our elevated position it appeared shorter than its 13.5 kilometre length.

The summit is a mix of mosque, hawkers’ stalls and fountains. Bags of fresh fruit such as guava with sour-sour- a surprising highlight- were also on offer. During the descent monkeys’ faces peered at us and a drunken local entertained us as he bemoaned his melting ice-cream.

Curries and rice at the Boatman were reasonably priced- 57 RM and tasty. A couple of female Aussie diners amused us with their earnest conversation about Corey and Dazza and why they couldn’t commit. Home is never far away.

With the curry singing in our mouths and doubtless by morning, stinging in our shorts, we set off for the markets. Buying needs the right attitude. Be stand-offish, know that the goods have a (very) limited life, and walk away as required.

Moopy (Kerry) haggled well over a couple shirts. I bought a shirt and shorts. Whilst in a stall the humidity grew and swelled. The groaning skies then opened. Carparks and footpaths swam.

It’s funny how rain can affect you in different ways. The faintest rain at the cricket can really disappoint (See The Oval; final Ashes Test, 2005- editor), but a torrent cannot worry once you are soaked, and can be fun!

Slept well in our king-size bed.

giant-twins