Wednesday 29 January 2014

Where the surf meets the turf - King Island

We have just come back from spending the Australia Day long weekend on beautiful King Island.

Just 45 minutes flight from a little airport near to home, it was a must. The plane was a tiny 12 seater including the pilot. Poor Gareth's knees were up around his ears somewhere!

King Island is situated off the north west coast of Tasmania and is surrounded by a rugged coastline in the middle of the Bass Straits, these are some of the most treacherous waters on earth and the 70 ship wrecks that found their graves here are testament to that.

The island has the largest lighthouse in Australia and judging by the number of shipwrecks from days gone by, it needed to be that way.

However, nowadays the island is more commonly known for its high quality produce. The grass fed beef and dairy from the turf and the incredible seafood from the surf are any foodies dream.

The cheeses from King Island dairy have won many awards world wide (certificates and trophies adorn) and the "Roaring 40's Blue" is a taste sensation. Of course, my cheese wolfing husband was in his element in the tasting room! (I had to monitor consumption carefully).
The air is also claimed to be the cleanest in the world so much so that the rain water is bottled and aptly named Cloud Juice. I love that, like a present from the heavens.

Given the scenery, the walks, the pristine beaches and the wonderful food, we knew this would be a place for us.


The added bonus and surprise were the islanders themselves. There were all so welcoming, so friendly, so helpful and all very keen to know that we were thoroughly enjoying their island home.

We took to them straight away and I think they took to us too. Laid back, no frills and plenty of friendly banter.

With Pete, John (the landlord of Parers Hotel) and the lovely Sally

The island is also known for its lashing gales and crashing seas as it lies in the path of the "roaring 40's", named after the incredibly strong westerlies that batter the coast on a latitude of 40 degrees.

However, we could not have had more clement weather, in fact at times our walks along the beach were more Indian Ocean than anything else. A rare occurrence indeed, we were told that the raging seas are so spectacular that they draw tourists just to come and see them.

We stayed in a great little motel with a quirky name; Boomerang by the Sea. Everything was clean and everything worked, the beds and linens were lovely and the views and sunsets were spectacular.

The island is also abundant in wildlife, some cherished and others loathed. Sadly the half a million wallabies that reside here are considered as vermin. Shooting permits are issued to keep the numbers down as they devour so much of the precious pasture land. However, more disturbing than that was the ridiculously high number of road kill. I didn't take any pictures, some were far too graphic and who needs to see that? We saw both sides of the story but couldn't help saying Aww! every time we saw a live one. They were very people shy, with just cause, and a photo proved elusive. Besides my camera might just be a gun as far as those roos were concerned.

More on what we did during our stay here in the next post, with a little out of character behaviour from Hubster to report!

Watch this space!


Sunday 19 January 2014

That was the week that was!

The state of Victoria has never seen temperatures top 40 degrees plus on 4 consecutive days since records began. Never in my life so far have I experienced living in temperatures like that either.

Hell fire what an experience!

We did some hard yards managing and minimising the effects of the heat but no more so than the beleaguered wildlife. They truly suffered, fruit bats were cooked alive in the trees and birds and possums dropped like flies to dehydration and heat exhaustion.

Unlike us they had no way out of it and it was terribly upsetting. We did our best, leaving water and pieces of watermelon around the garden. Each morning the fruit and water were gone. I hope our efforts saved some, many have their Spring babies to care for too. I hope we did.

Then inevitably came the news of horrendous bush fires in outback rural areas. In some places the fires spread so quickly people were unable to evacuate their homes. One lady died as her home was engulfed and many homes have been destroyed.

As demand for power surged due to the increased air conditioning, power cuts were wide spread as the whole network buckled in the heat.

Yet, unbelievably people were still walking their dogs on pavements so hot you could fry bacon on them and leaving them in cars. One day I had to pop out, just 10 minutes later I returned to my car to see the temperature gauge had hit 52 degrees inside, what chance for a poor animal?  I won't discuss this further as it makes me so very annoyed with stupid people! (ok I got a bit annoyed).

Our boys only went outside for the call of nature. Kale found a shady spot under the birch trees but even then after 10 minutes I brought him back inside with plenty of ice in their water bowls.

Mercifully, Friday night saw the cool change come through and it dropped to 25 degrees from the 44 of the day. We all slept well that night.

On Saturday morning we woke up to the very sad news that an iconic restaurant on the beach and indeed one of our favourites, had been gutted by fire.

The Stokehouse was a heritage listed building and a top spot for amazing views of the bay and the City. It is where we had spent a wonderful Christmas Eve whilst blessed with the most magnificent sunset. That night will be a lasting memory of our time here.

The Stokehouse then.
Luckily everyone was safely evacuated.

That afternoon we got on our bikes and saw that the fire service were still there dowsing down. What a mess.

The Stokehouse now.

With hope that it will be a phoenix from the ashes, we cycled up further and enjoyed two delicious sharing plates for lunch.

King Fish Sashimi with Wasabi Mayo, Soy Pearls and Chili

Chicken San Choi Bao, Beansprouts, Honey Peanuts, Coriander, Thai Basil and Lime all added to Iceberg Lettuce cups and eaten like a fajita!
The Slam Beach Volley Ball Festival was in full whack and we mingled amongst the hustle and bustle, it couldn't have been more Aussie.

With the wind picking up and storm clouds circling we then cycled back home into the strongest head wind I have encountered yet along the front.

That same evening we made our way to the Rod Laver Arena and Melbourne Park for the Australian Open Tennis. It was fantastic to see top seeds Victoria Azarenka and Rafael Nadal play, well lets say annihilate their opponents really. The atmosphere was superb and the banter from the crowd was in top form. It was a feel good evening.

Whilst clearly sweeping the board, the best call out of the night went to the guy who shouted "Come on Rafa you can win this!" I do love a bit of dry humour and the crowd erupted into hoots of laughter.

On Sunday morning Gareth played golf then at lunch time I joined him at the club to meet his playing partners and their wives.

I admit I was extremely nervous as they are all good friends from years back and meeting 3 new couples head on was a bit daunting. However, that said I was actually really happy that Gareth had made some friends of his own now who clearly thought a lot of him. At the end of lunch we were invited to join them all again at one of the couples beach houses on the Mornington Peninsula sometime in March.

It's only taken two years but I think you could call this a bit of integrating!

All in all its been a very eventful week down under with what will prove to be, good and bad memories to reflect on.

It kind of sums up life anyway, ebb and flow, ebb and flow.

It is never dull is it?


Friday 10 January 2014

A Melbourne Star is not born!

There are 3 observational wheels in the world.

The spectacular London Eye.

The sensational Singapore Flyer

and the erm.........Melbourne Star.

There are many wonderful things to see and do in Melbourne but truly this is not one of them.

I live in Melbourne currently, I love the City and am always ready to champion all that is good about it. However, this "attraction" is a huge damp squib, a grandiose white elephant of epic proportions.


Purely because of its location which quite frankly has me puzzled and annoyed in equal measure. It just doesn't make any sense whatsoever.

We were ushered into the pod by over enthusiastic teenagers bidding us an "awesome flight" and in cringe worthy fashion encouraging us to make "friends" aboard!!

The tourist commentary bimbled exuberantly along exuding the highlights of Melbourne; the magnificent MCG, the iconic Flinders Street Station, the historic architecture, the Yarra River, the beautiful parks and gardens, the unprecedented restaurant scene and so on and so on.

Yes, without doubt fabulous but there was just one huge problem; you cannot see ANY of it from the Melbourne Star, absolutely nothing, nada, zilch.

What you do see is the Westgate freeway, the top of Costco's hypermarket roof, various multi storey car parks and warehouses and the industrialised working docks. Marvellous!

Even the city sky line is far yonder in the distance.

At $32 per adult it is not a cheap gig either, in fact rip off springs to mind.

Oh dear oh dear Melbourne, did no-one look at what London and Singapore have done? This could and should have been our "Harbour Bridge".

A star has not been born but a huge opportunity has been missed.

The view comprises a varied selection of corrugated warehouses

.... and a few more with the added aesthetic of the working docklands behind my left, an interestingly painted multi storey car park

 and cutting through swathes of urban wasteland is the city skyline in the distance

 As we disembarked our pod after an arduous and quite frankly boring 25 minutes, we shook our heads in disbelief and those "enthusiastic teenagers" could barely meet our gaze.  

If you want a great view of Melbourne with all the star attractions? Head up the Eureka Tower, easily located just off the Yarra River and enjoy a drink at the bar whilst you take in the view.

Wednesday 1 January 2014

New Years Day and Royal Ascot

Well not quite Ascot.

Hanging Rock country races in the Macedonian ranges to be precise.

Ascot it is not. Fun and as Aussie as it gets? Yes!

We love it, it is a T-J family tradition to go racing at Christmas time. We didn't want to let the Welsh contingency down.

Before departing we glued ourselves to Sky News UK to watch the New Year in back home. The fireworks in London were incredible and the poor TV presenters trying to fill time interviewing tipsy punters beforehand was most amusing.

An hours drive north and we were out in the sticks at Hanging Rock.

No spit and polish here, this is really rustic and proper country. Hoards turn up in droves with their umbrellas, rugs and "eskys" full to the brim (Eskys = Cool Boxes/picnic hampers).

There is a bar and a few food stations and some very interesting attire.

The minute we leave the City, Hubster and I are on kangaroo watch. Its an unspoken occupation until one of us screams out "Roos!" in utter delight.

We never tire of the roos.

Well our search was fruitless....................until the last race! The race was held up, why? Big 4WDS were chasing across the course and onto yonder fields and then.............the biggest mob of roos galloped across the fields in the distance.

How big would you think a mob could be?

How about 300 plus strong. It made our day. It was a beautiful sight with the big, protective 7ft greys at the rear.

I didn't get any pics just too far for my little camera to focus but joyful non the less.

It was a great day. How my Father in Law would have loved it.

Just in case we forget we are in Oz!


Yes Dad of course he had some winners! xxxx