Tuesday, 24 February 2015

The Gold Coast

Tuesday 24th February 2015

At Burleigh Heads

Dear Futurest

Quite probably this will be my last letter as we have only a few more days before we return to England. A week today should see us back in Warwick and I shall have to get to know you all over again.

 

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A dweller of the Bush

 

Hopefully you have been okay while I’ve been away and if all the jobs have been done on board as I asked, I expect you will be feeling tons better anyway. Soon we shall be cruising again, you and I, back to the old happy routine which I am sure after your enforced stagnation over the winter, you will relish. I most certainly will even though my travels over the winter have been glorious.

 

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Purling Falls, Springbrook National Park

 

Tomorrow morning early we leave Sharon’s house and fly from Brisbane down to Hobart in Tasmania for the last weekend of our Australasian Adventure.

 

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Lace Monitor

 

In Hobart Janis and I are attending a Blue Star Line staff reunion. Though this company for whom I used to work no longer exists, each year old shipmates get together alternating biannually between Australia and New Zealand down here and separately in England for a bit of a ‘bean feast’; an excuse for old mates to get together for a yarn or two. This year the Australasian one is in Hobart and timed just right for Janis and I to attend.

 

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Kookaburra

 

On the list of attendees there are one or two names that I remember quite well from fifty plus years ago but whether I shall recognise the faces that belong to the names is another matter. The festivities are scheduled to take place all over the weekend so it should be a good opportunity to renew past relationships.

 

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Carpet Python

 

We have been staying with Janis’s sister here at Burleigh Heads for nearly three weeks and for the first fortnight Sharon used some of her annual leave to show us around. Consequently she has had to put up with us at very close quarters for some time. However she has been a marvellous hostess and an excellent tour guide. Janis and I would never have seen and enjoyed many of the places and their amazingly diverse wildlife if it hadn’t been for Sharon’s enthusiastic guidance.

 

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Kangaroos at the side of the road

 

However over the last week the Coast hasn’t been so golden as it could have been. We have been deluged by intermittent heavy showers as a result of a Category 5 cyclone called ‘Marcia’ which hit the Queensland coast recently. Fortunately for us the  damage caused by the severely high winds was well to the north but for a number of days the heavy rain here has been prolonged. However the air temperature has remained up towards the thirty degree mark all the time so we haven’t suffered from the cold in any way and in between showers our wet clothes have dried on our bodies very satisfactorily.

 

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Watchful Koala

 

Well Old Friend, we are coming to the end of this phase in our lives. I hope you have enjoyed these letters. I have certainly enjoyed writing them.

Being made predominantly of steel you are definitely classed in the Mineral category of Mass, logically therefore without any consciousness. However I always feel when I am aboard that there is some response from you towards my behaviour or simply to my being there, which to me implies that somewhere deep within your atoms of creation you can understand me. And this on its own is enough excuse for me to enjoy writing to you.

See you in a week’s time.

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Queensland

 Sunday 15th February 2015

Dear Futurest

Hello again!

Though it must be over a week since I last wrote the time flies so quickly that it seems my contact then was just a couple of days ago. However when I last wrote I realise we were still in the depths of our South Island experience and there have been so many changes since then.

On Thursday 5th February Janis and I took off from Christchurch, finally leaving Waipounamu, the ancient Maori name for the land of the greenstone, the country that we had viewed and loved so avidly over the previous five weeks. We had said goodbye to Dorothy, Janis’s mother, who had kindly given us a lift to the Airport, and Bryan Janis’s brother who travelled with his mum to bid us farewell and soon we had boarded the Plane to fly us to Brisbane.

It was a bumpy flight across the Tasman Sea with the pure white cloud level, which a little earlier had been above us and black giving Christchurch so many heavy showers, now glistening just beneath us in the Sun. Its apparent calmness was nevertheless causing the aeroplane to leap up and down great distances very quickly, a sensation similar to being in a small boat on a rough day in a sharp choppy swell.

Furthermore when we landed at Brisbane there was also a considerable cross wind so our landing was far from level or easy. But the pilot managed very well and on finally coaxing all three parts of the undercarriage to remain firmly on the deck at the same time, there was the usual exhilarating feeling of deceleration as he applied ‘full astern both’ to bring the aircraft safely to a taxi from one hundred and fifty knots plus in a similar number of yards.

 

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‘Bird of Paradise’ in the garden of Sharon’s flat

 

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Looking north towards Surfers Paradise

 

 

Sharon, Janis’s sister was at the airport to collect us in her car and very swiftly she took us to Burleigh Heads, some ninety kilometres to the south on the sunny Gold Coast of Queensland, where she lives in her comfortable top floor flat.

 

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Sleepy Koalas near Burleigh Heads

 

Since then she has been the perfect hostess and tour guide taking us somewhere different every day that Janis and I would never have managed to know about had we been here on our own.

But on the following day, Friday, Sharon had to go to work so  we were left to our own devices. It was a good opportunity therefore to visit my old shipmate Robin and his wife Jan. 

He came to pick us up and took us for lunch at his lovely home in nearby Bundell. Robin and I had sailed together as teenagers on the ‘Gladstone Star’ and only recently had our courses crossed again since then.

He and Jan were travelling around the Uk last year and had visited Janis and I on the boats whilst we were in Birmingham so they invited us then to visit them on our arrival in Queensland.

It was a wonderful day and we had a lovely lunch. Robin and I chatted on as one does over nearly remembered reminiscences of fifty plus years ago and the time flew by. Soon it was time for our host to bring us back to Burleigh Heads where Sharon was waiting to guide us on a local walk around the town and onto the beach.

I was amazed looking north along the beach to see hazily in the distance the tall skyscrapers of Surfers Paradise sticking up so close together on the far horizon and as the Sun set its light was reflecting so vividly on the mass of glass of the high buildings.

 

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Two Sisters and Blue Sky at Surfers Paradise

 

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….. and exotic flowers with liquid nectar…..

 

Staying within five minutes of the beach at Burleigh Heads means that we’ve spent a considerable time on it or in the gardens close to it where all kinds of entertainments go on, as the Sun sets especially. The main shopping James Street itself isn’t too far away either while the plentiful pubs and caf├ęs along the waterfront spill out beneath colourful blinds onto the pavement just over the road behind the beach. All the way along to Surfers Paradise small townships and suburbs have made the most of this golden beach frontage.

 

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…..while strange looking birds roam near the beach

 

On the beach are drummers and anyone can join in with their own drum; it’s surprising how many different types there are while fire jugglers throw and twirl ‘bundles’ of fire up down and roundabout very cleverly during the dusk, as darkness draws in and hundreds of brightly coloured Cockatiels fly in to roost, squealing en masse like Starlings in the tall palms around.

The climate is wonderful of course, that is in between showers of rain which can be heavy at times but mostly the population all seem to be on permanent holiday where the most important and largest item of swimwear is the surfboard.

Without a doubt servicing the tourist is the most important industry on this coast and probably in the whole of Queensland as it doesn’t stop at the beach. Just a few kilometres inland is the dense  and lush Australian Bush as not far away are the national parks associated with Mount Warning, the centre of an enormous prehistoric volcano, now eroded mostly away but whose high perpendicular escarpments are now covered in rich dark green forest, which provides homes for a myriad of varied and colourful wildlife from Birds through to Butterflies to Leeches and Lizards, all of which are exotic. I find it all breath-taking and amazing.

 

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Nocturnal green frog at Springbrook

 

We spent a day at Surfers Paradise and while young bronzed bodies soaked up the hot Sun in their apparent immortality oblivious to the health dangers they were taking, we took a two hour trip on a boat in the canal just behind the dense ‘high rise’ to see the super yachts and five million dollar plus houses of the rich. Many of them were unoccupied I noticed.

However we have also been into the bush and we three spent two nights at a backpacker’s hostel at the small hamlet of Springbrook in the national park of the same name. We tramped many miles and saw wonderful things as already indicated. The highlight was feeding the very colourful wild birds from our hands in the natural garden where we were staying and a night walk to see bright green nocturnal frogs and giant spiders lurking in their webs.

Janis’s friends from Lincolnshire, Steve and Tina on holiday came to visit us at Burleigh Heads and stayed for three nights so we had a great reunion with them.

 

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Feeding the birds at Springbrook

 

My final observation of Queensland is that it seems to lack culture generally and the only form of regular entertainment apart from the beach is the cinema at the multi screen giants. However there are traces of live theatre around in the form of amateur dramatics and Sharon had managed to book tickets last night at the community centre at Tugun, one of the aforementioned local suburbs, where the local amateur group performed very adequately Alan Aykbourne’s farce ‘How the Other Half Loves’. We were able to take a picnic supper and ate it at tables prior to the show beginning.

And that’s it old chum! You’re about up to date. Having had no acknowledgement of my email from Cheryl at Kate Boats I wrote again to her yesterday concerning your battery change and engine service so hopefully all will be done before Janis and I return home on Tuesday 3rd March. I do hope that things are well otherwise with you.

Until the next time I write, all the best.We shall soon be home now. 

Monday, 2 February 2015

Haarst to Christchurch

Monday 2nd February

Dear Futurest

Here we are again, this time back in Christchurch after a busy four or five weeks travelling around the South Island.

We arrived here last Tuesday afternoon and as we came into the suburbs of the city clouds arrived en masse for the first time since we had left and it began to rain. Earlier in the day coming down through Arthur’s Pass from Otiro, where we had stayed the previous night there was not a cloud in sight and only the tightness of the mountains around us reduced the area of blue above.

After Arthurs Pass we actually drove through a bushfire area and were shrouded for quite a way in thick smoke as helicopters buzzed back and forth dousing the fires with enormous buckets replenished from the nearby Lake Pearson.

The cloud has remained with us all the time at Christchurch and though the rain has held off mostly during the day it has looked a bit dull sometimes.

However we have been okay staying with Janis’s Mum again as she looks after us very well. We‘ve been  quite quiet since arriving, generally winding down after our hectic trip. We’ve been mostly making ourselves useful around the garden helping with the different different jobs that need to be done.

 

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Mt Cook on the right and Mt Tasman across Lake Matheson

 

But before then, after Haarst Township our exotic trip continued up the West Coast Road to the small town of Hokitika, situated on the River Kaniere which drains down in a braided fashion lazily across white bleached pebbles from the lake of the same name in the foothills of the mountains  behind and slips across a wide sandy bar into the Tasman Sea.

 

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Hokitika at sunset

 

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Like many other small towns on this side of New Zealand, Hokitika began in a flourish in the early 1860’s when somebody panned some gold and the rush was on as people flocked here mainly from Australia to seek their fortune. The port became very busy and stayed that way for a long time after the rush ended just a few years later.

We stayed at a backpackers hostel above a shop selling Pounamu (the name for the native greenstone jewellery) for two nights and enjoyed the beach and the sunsets in particular.

After the Sun had gone down we made our way to the local glow worm grotto and after dark had descended I was amazed on seeing the bright pinpricks of light all around me. It was as if I was looking at the night sky in the middle of an ocean. They were so clear I could almost imagine the Milky Way just beyond.

At Hokitika too I enjoyed for the first time that New Zealand delicacy Whitebait. I had the tiny little fish fried in an omelette between two pieces of bread as a Whitebait sandwich. This omelette is the normal way of eating the delicacy and is known as a Whitebait Pattie.

 

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The pub at Otira almost unchanged in 150 years

 

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Beside the Model T (that’s the lorry of course)

 

 

The following day we set off inland towards Arthurs Pass and spent the night at a delightfully comfortable back packers hostel high in the foothills of the steep mountains just south of the small, almost derelict town of Otira. The hostel was like a well designed New Zealand country cottage (single story with a red corrugated roof) and on the one night that we were there, we found ourselves completely on our own. The following day we arrived in Christchurch.

We remain here till this Thursday when we set off for Queensland where we plan to stay for a while with Janis’s sister Sharon. That should be another experience to which I am looking forward.

The days pass quickly old friend and we shall soon be home. Though I am enjoying my tour it will be good to get home in early March.

Today I emailed Cheryl at Kate Boats to remind her to have your leisure batteries changed as well as give your engine a service, so soon I expect you’ll be hearing all sorts of stuff happening around you. It’ll just be Rob coming aboard to do the jobs.

I’m so busy that I haven’t managed yet to compile the set of photos that I promised in my last letter but I’m still working on it and it won’t be too long I hope  before I get them them through to you.

So until the next time old chum, all the best.