Author: cazgilbert

Water water everywhere

With almost one thousand isolating at home, around thirty in a hospital ward and another ten in ICU, I am isolating. It’s not as hard as it seems as I am lucky to be where I am.

Walking with the mask on when it gets hot makes breathing difficult so I walked early this morning and was back busying myself. There are always jobs to be done and I swept up the huge patio outside and then through the rooms in the villa. I decided to wash my bath towels and that’s where the trouble began.

In fairness the washing machine is not the best. From the first day I carefully followed the handwritten instructions inside the cupboard door it has made such a loud banging noise you could probably hear it half a mile away. It clangs, bangs and as it has never drained out completely I have worried about the clothes being rinsed thoroughly.

Today it made screeching sounds in addition to the bangs and clangs as it whirled away. It would not spin at the end of a cycle. I tried turning the dial around to the spin of another programme but all it did was add more water. The level of suds, which would not rinse away, formed a three inch thick white foamy line on top of water. I studied the porthole door for some time, willing the water to drain away but it was having none of it.

Eventually armed with a bendy rubber pink two-handled bucket and a rigid blue pail, I opened the door. The bucket filled immediately and the pail took what cascaded out of the open door with the excess flowing on the tiles. I couldn’t lift the bucket to empty it out such was the weight of the water. I pulled the towels out and rinsed them individually in cold water in the sink. It took ages to rinse the suds out of the towels. I was worried about how much precious water I was pouring down the sink. I baled out the washing machine with a saucepan.

With the towels drying in the breeze, I did an absolutely stupid thing. I switched on the machine, this time with no clothes in it. It filled as before and I hoped that it would empty but no matter how I changed the programme it still would not empty. So I have a slightly thinner white foam line sitting on top of the water which fills over half the porthole window of the machine.

I phoned reception for help but they had gone for the day so I have decided to leave as is and wait for one of the maintenance guys to come on in the morning and sort it out.

The only positive is so much water missed the pail and the bucket I was able to mop up the kitchen floor which I had intended washing but not necessarily today.

It’s another day tomorrow and the kitchen floor might well get a second

Washing Machine Woes

So the washing machine man came this afternoon. He tried different programmes on the machine but the foamy water just continued whirling around getting foamier with the continued agitation. Finally he decided to take off the protecting white plinth that made the washing machine a ‘Built-in” machine. Really it is installed behind a door which matches the newly installed kitchen. If I had managed to remove the glued-on plinth myself I would have found the drain trap and might have been able to open it myself.

He selected the shallowest Tupperware box I offered him. He gently opened the drain trap and filled the box, closed the drain trap and emptied the contents into yesterday’s pink bendy bucket. He repeated these steps several times and eventually cleaned the drain trap.

His English is slightly better than my Spanish and I think he told me he had cleaned the drain trip and unblocked the pipe. He had used a screwdriver and a biro pen to achieve this and told me the washing machine was working. If it was not I was to call reception and he would come back.

After he left I put some whites in the machine and the floor had another wash. Clean water poured out from underneath the machine and he has either not closed the drain trap door properly or he has poked a hole in a pipe underneath the machine with the screwdriver or biro pen.

Of course when I phoned reception to report water flowing over the kitchen floor the machine repair man had gone home but would be back in the morning.

So I have another display of dripping wet clothes on the patio. But this time I didn’t need to bale out the machine as it flowed freely from underneath the machine.

The kitchen floor has never been so well washed.

Happy days!

Another week

So here we are at the start of another week, that is if you count a Sunday as the start. I would like to think of it as the start as there is hopefully a change in the government in the UK. Not a change of government – a change in the team of advisers to Mr Johnston. Maybe things will be clearer and more efficient.

The Canary Islands require you to have a clear Covid test before landing and I believe the onus is on the hotels to check that their guests are Covid free. Much better that the test is done before one boards a plane, as the whole plane load of passengers could be at risk.

I love the Channel 4 programme “A Place in the Sun”. A young man in the hotel who I had mistaken for a diver – is working on a programme. Tells me it take a week to prepare the programme and a week to film. I don’t know if they are filming locally but further enquiries reveal they are. In fact there is another team filming in Matagorda.

As the director who looks like a surfer heads off to Grand Canaria another team arrive into the hotel and they are a lovely bunch of people. They too spend a week researching and the second week filming. We have had heavy rain as we slip into the final month of this never to be forgotten year. The rain and flooding must affect the filming. But the team head down to the beach on their final afternoon in Playa Blanca. The rain again disturbs their afternoon and they head off as the skies darken, with slate grey clouds, and their next destination is Tenerife.

They were good company. Nice people and I appreciate their company. I find myself lonely. Self-inflicted, because I am avoiding new arrivals to the hotel as they could be carrying the virus. I never believed the saliva test was to be trusted. Today it was announced it is only fifty percent accurate. Testing now has to happen 72 hours before arrival. This means you have a gap before catching the flight where you could become infected. Our Lanzarote Ladies Connected and Lanza Swallows groups both have a rule no one is permitted to join in any event until they have been on the island a minimum of seven days. Until the vaccine is as widespread as the virus we will still be at risk.

A week in November

It’s been a fabulous week weather wise, but that is all about to change. Lanzarote held its breath for a couple of days, week before last, as it was forecast we might face the wrath of a hurricane as it blew across towards us from the other side of the Atlantic. In any event it did not hit us, at least as far as I am aware. It missed us but drew the hot air of the Sahara over us so we enjoyed temperatures in the 30s. As I walked down to the Monday coffee morning in La Gran Via, it was a mere 32 degrees at 10.30 am and I mean Celsius and not Fahrenheit.

So it was throughout the rest of the week and we basked in baking temperatures totally unseasonal but really enjoyable. How quickly I have become acclimatised and am now finding a drop to 22 degrees quite chilly and looking for a cardigan.

Monday 16th was a busy day, coffee morning and there was a nice turn out with a lovely young girl who arrived looking for company. We oldies tried to do the best we could and hopefully we have pointed her in the direction where she might make some friends. It didn’t help that she looked 22 but was in fact 32 or is this me becoming so old that I look at all youngish people as I do these days at doctors or policemen?

Afternoon tea at Las Casitas was followed by a couple of games of bingo. The afternoon tea is worth a mention as it is a very English afternoon tea with tiny sandwiches, smoked salmon on brown bread and best of all, wonderful sausage rolls which were served piping hot. The many cakes were delicious and everything was fattening but completely enjoyable.

Third outing of the day was a 60th birthday celebration to taste home distilled rhubarb gin, which I am told was extremely palatable and went down a treat. Nibbles were plentiful and chocolates seemed the right thing to follow the gin and the fizz. It turned into a “girls” and ”boys” session, the boys sitting round a table and we girls enjoying the comfort of the plush garden furniture and there we sat in the warm night air enjoying the chat, laughing as we shared experiences and tall tales.

Unsurprisingly I was wrecked on Tuesday. I need to remind myself of the age I am and that I am here to recover after the complications of recent surgery. I think I have been recovering from one thing or another the past eight years or so. You have to have fun sometimes!

Wednesday was Image consultation day and the lambs gamely arrived to the slaughter. Even me as tea girl was told I had the wrong lipstick on. I replied, “You told me to wear this colour of lipstick!” “But not when you are tanned. You need a darker lipstick.” Was the retort as I was firmly put in my place!

I didn’t do much Wednesday but I did walk from the bus stop to the villa where the workshop was and I made the teas and coffees but I was wrecked by the time I got back to the hotel.

The lambs were great fun and were variously told they had the wrong colour hair, make up, glasses, sandals, and the wrong shorts, dresses, either shape, colour or fabric. They stripped to their bra and knickers and were advised if they were apple, pear, or hourglass, whether they were short or long waisted, narrow or broad shoulders, long or short legged. The corrections were greeted with laughter and the questions flew as although everyone was laughing this was serious business and each lamb really did want to know how to make the best of their assets.

On Thursday good friends called for a coffee in my hotel. They also wanted a look around my new hotel as it was refurbished a couple of years ago. Thursday night I played hotel bingo and won a line, for which I was given a cocktail. My young friend who I gave it too would rather I hadn’t bothered as she said it was pretty awful. It was a very nice blue colour at the bottom half of the glass but that’s the only positive thing she would say about it. Then I went on to win the house and a bottle of Cava. (I should have bought a lottery ticket!)

On Friday, dear friends collected me and we drove in convoy with other friends through the National Park to San Bartolome where we had a coffee in the square near the church. We headed further north and parked in Teguise which is a beautiful town. It’s best seen on a day when the market is not on so you can enjoy the beautiful buildings. One building had similar doors, the height and carving, to one I had seen in the city of Salisburg many years ago.

So we girls did some shopping in the small winding streets. Every shop welcomed us as these people really need our custom. The current lockdown in the UK and France has affected the traffic to this island to a huge extent. The first lockdown was bad enough but this one has knocked the hope out of many. But we tried as best we could to spend where we could. We didn’t need much encouragement.

We returned to a tapas bar which was a favourite of my friends on a previous visit. We were the only foreigners as the rest of the customers were all Spanish – a great recommendation. The tapas were excellent as was the wine I am told. One friend asked for a glass of rose and then changed her mind saying if she got the bottle it would be cheaper and she could get a cork and take the rest home. My other friend had ordered a glass of white wine and not to be outdone said she would do the same. The food was delicious and plentiful and if we had stuck at the tapas it would have been fine, but as the wine flowed and the beer arrived chilled we decided cake was a necessity. One order was apple cake and the other a piece of carrot cake, but two of us were invited to try “the most delicious cake” and we did.

It was a sponge base, then what seemed like a layer of sliced peaches, then a layer of cream, cake, then caramel and so it went on to the top which was again sponge cake topped with meringue. I couldn’t finish it but I ate all the meringue off the top and the remnants were demolished by the others.

Off we went again, this time heading towards Famara, where the surfers play. We took a wrong turning which was beneficial because as we turned we faced the full majesty of the mountains which are the backdrop to the surfers’ beach. In the late afternoon the mountains were as stunning as Ayers Rock in the shadow of the waning sun.

So on we travelled to stop for a coffee before heading south. Surfers, all totally mad in my opinion, were bobbing about in very high seas off La Santa. Somebody commented, “They are rocks over there.” But they were not – they were a row of black clad surfers lined up to ride the next high wave.

It’s worth mentioning that we had set out in the morning under cover of bright blue skies which had followed us throughout the day. But at La Santa the sky had changed to a grey/sandy colour and we were experiencing a Calima.

It was one of those magical days on this island. The company of good friends made it all the more so special.

Saturday I was wrecked so I went for a pedicure down the Marine Rubicon and fell sound asleep in the chair, much to the amusement of Angela, the best podiatrist ever.

Sunday I went to church and it was just wonderful to be back amongst these lovely people so caring and so deep is their faith. Lunch at Geckos’s with other friends was the usual high standard. Dave is an excellent chef and he is going to try the chocolate fudge cake recipe I gave him during this week.

Now there is a circus act in the hotel tonight. I am told they are excellent. It would take a lot to beat the magician who was here during the week. He did the usual boxing up his wife, sawing her in half and then magically putting her together again. But the white doves appeared from nowhere as did a huge white rabbit but it was the dog, the double of my Sophie, who suddenly appeared out of a box which really threw me. Then the bottle and the glass jumping over and back again. We were within ten feet of him and how he did this, we just couldn’t work out at all. But that’s what all the magic is about.

So we are back to the coffee morning tomorrow and another week has gone by on this paradise island.

Where were you?

It was one of those momentous weeks. Will you remember where you were when US news stations finally declared Joe Biden, President-elect? Will you remember where you were when you heard there was a vaccine for the Covid-19 virus? Or will you remember where you were when you heard the UK deaths from the virus had topped the 50,000 mark? (The death toll is probably much higher than that because for the last while only those who have been diagnosed with the Corona virus and have died within 28 days of the diagnosis are counted as dying from the virus, i.e., if you were diagnosed 29 days ago or earlier you don’t count as dying from the virus!)

I was at Lesley and Michele’s at a barbecue on Saturday 7th when their daughter Emma checked her mobile phone and announced Joe Biden had made the necessary number 270. I had watched the counts during the previous nights when the numbers seemed stuck for over 24 hours. Great relief that the Trump dynasty may be at an end but you can understand quite clearly why he rushed to put his own lady in the Supreme Court.

I was at a Swallows’ lunch overlooking the harbour when I received a phone call from an excited Christine N. She is planning to travel out to Lanzarote early 2021, but not until there is a vaccine. A vaccine has been announced as being 90% successful. Tuesday’s news was exciting and positive, and a GM reporter even managed to doorstep the cautiously optimistic Minister for Health between a Sky news and BBC interview. Government ministers have been boycotting Good Morning Britain for around 200 days.

And I was in bed with the headphones on listening to Ben and Susannah this morning -12th November – when the deaths for the UK topped the 50,000 mark, the highest death toll in Europe. Meanwhile Johnston’s buddies were jostling for position in a power struggle. Carrie is said to have blocked the appointment of Lee Cain as the PM’s chief of staff. Said Lee Cain has resigned and Dominic Cummins, (he who tested his eyesight by driving a thirty mile round trip) is also said to be considering his position.

Was this a diversionary tactic to block the top story of the day i.e., 50,000 plus Virus – related deaths in the UK? One wonders but thankfully common sense prevailed and Susannah and Ben continued with the deaths as their lead story.

Johnston’s ex-wife, Marina Wheeler, was also interviewed by Ben and Susannah this morning. Launching her new book, “The Last Homestead,” Ms Wheeler explained the last two years had been very traumatic and difficult. Battling cervical cancer, but in remission following three operations, as well as coping with divorce and the death of her mother to cancer, Ms Wheeler was the epitome of dignity as she refused to be drawn into answering questions regarding her ex-husband and what may be happening in No 10 at the moment. The book covers the end of British rule in India and the partition into India and Pakistan. I truly hope it is very successful for her and that she finds peace and fulfilment as she returns to her legal work.

Click Click

Christine and I got a click tonight – a double click.  At least when Christine’s click kissed her hand this time she didn’t have her false teeth (bottom set only) clutched between her trembling fingers.

It appears we are fair game.  Two women on our own, even though we are past our sell by dates, the French men think we are incredibly rich when Christine tells them she is here for six months.   What they don’t know is that we have a discount because we are long term residents and that our rooms are a simple double bedroom with en-suite.   They are paying much more for studio apartments, spacious bedrooms, bathrooms and sitting rooms, with at least one balcony.

I came out on 19th October, and have been here three weeks now.  It has just flown.  I was exhausted coming out with all the trauma of trees chopped down to save the garage roof, the main house roof and the outhouse roof.  Then the wood needed to be taken out of the garden shed, bagged up, transferred to the dry of the garage and then the newly cut wood stacked in the garden shed, now renamed the wood shed.

My attempt to remove the gravel around the pond to the side of the house has been going on intermittently as and when I have been strong enough to lift the gardening tools.  (This being my contribution towards saving the planet.). Was almost on the point of giving up when a woofer enthusiastically took over the job for me.  He found it hard too but the night before I was flying off for the winter, he worked until 11.30pm.  I had explained I wanted grass seed laid across the area around the pond, replacing the gravel. He scrapped and dragged the tiny grey stones until there were two large heaps of gravel by the boundary wall.  He placed bamboo cut to approx three feet tall around the area to be grassed.  He wound rope around the bamboo stakes in a cross cross arrangement.   I had given him a whole new and unopened packet of Lidl tinfoil and demonstrated a strip approx three inches wide and a foot long to be twisted over the rope.  This would I hope frighten the wonderful bird life away and allow the seeds to grow.

I got up around 8 am when it was light I looked out to find the area resemble a space age scene with huge strips of tinfoil waving in the breeze.  In his enthusiasm he had used nearly the whole roll of tinfoil.

As I was still at the stage of unpacking and repacking suitcases, balancing them on the bathroom scales and transferring item from suitcase to suitcase to meet Ryanair’s designated luggage limits, there was little I could do to sort out silver city.  I was travelling with four suitcases.  One 20kg and another 10 kg added the previous evening, and these two would go in the hold.  Good old Ryanair allow me a 10 kg suitcase on board free of charge because it contains necessary medical equipment and there was also the regular 10 kg bag I could take into the cabin.  This suitcase was also filled with medicines.

I could do nothing about the silvery garden as Jonathan was arriving shortly to take me to the airport.  I don’t know if the tinfoil strips were successful and if any of the seeds have developed into little green shoots.   (Latest report five months later is that the bamboo and silver strips remain, but the grass seeds have disappeared completely).

I underestimated the temperatures in Playa Blanca.  Last year it was 23 and 25 in October but reverse the numbers and you get a fair idea of what we have been experiencing. I didn’t bring clothes suitable for these temperatures but have made do and mend.

It took several days to sort out all my possessions.  I had left one very large suitcase, one small suitcase, two large plastic storage containers and my tartan shopping trolley packed to overflowing with my sun hats, cushions and covers for the patio chairs, and throws stored for a friend in the hotel store room.

I was also storing art equipment for one of my friends due out in February 2020.

It’s take these past three weeks to sort everything into some sort of order within the limited space.

It’s been so lovely meeting up with friends and catching up on the six or seven months since we last met.

I am now coming within sight of the end of my winter sojourn in the sun.  What a five months it has been.   There have been dramas and excitement, unrequited love affairs or would be affairs.   The special and wonderful experience of seeing two people you really like finally realise they are meant for each other.  I love them both and am so happy they have found each other.  Personally the loneliness is present all the time and I do feel envious of the many couples who walk along the beach hand in hand.  Feel angry and cheated that John didn’t try harder to look after himself.   But on the positive side I have made the most amazing friends.  The Spanish Social group are friends I know I will have the rest of my life and one couple in particular have been the backbone of my stay here.  I would have not managed half as well without them.  I miss people of course at home, the grandchildren especially. But conversely I will miss the friends I have made here and will look forward to returning in October.  How luck am I to have two places in the world I want to be!  And dare I write a tell all tale of the past five months in paradise?   It has been such fun at times, but maybe what happens in PB should stay in PB?

 

33 Days in the Wilderness Day 23

 

We have booked an airport bus to pick us up after breakfast.  The small minibus arrives and we hurtle around Sydney picking up luggage and other passengers and when we are full to bursting point head out to the airport.  There are different terminals and the bus driver drops us at the wrong one.

I go into the terminal, show my ticket, and the girl directs me upstairs.  I check with the girl at the desk upstairs and she, very rudely, tells me I am in the wrong terminal. We have to get a trolley and push it through the car parks to the next terminal.

The plane for Ayer Rock is the scruffiest plane we have seen.  The seats are tatty and none too clean.  The air hostesses have lots of make-up but their clothes are messy and untidy.

We fly over Botany Bay and then turn north. The first settlers found a lack of fresh water at Botany Bay and they set to see again and discovered Sydney Harbour which had plenty of fresh water.

It is a three hour flight to Ayers Rock and we lose half an hour in the time difference.

There is nothing to see after we fly over Sydney and the Blue Mountains.  Australia is just mile after mile of red oxide earth.  Most of the population live within a few miles of the coast as the interior is so inhospitable.

We are collected in the searing heat at airport by coach and driven the short distance to the main accommodation areas which are about fifteen minutes’ drive from the Rock itself.  All accommodation is low level, and we only have a short time to dump our bags, grab a sandwich and then wait with others at reception.  Our next coach collects us at 3 pm and we set off for Ayers Rock.

First of all we go to the Mumbles and there is a walk through to a ravine.  It it is snowing flies and even though we have out netted hats on, it is miserable. I start to climb the hill to the ravine but give it up as it is too hot and I am wasting so much energy waving flies away.

We wait, with others unable to make the trek, under some shade until the rest of our group returns from their walk.  Whilst we are waiting, Dave the driver, lifts a dragon lizard in the palm of his hand.  The creature is so perfectly formed, with a series of mottled triangular spikes rising from his spine and reaching down to his tail.  He scuttles into the bush as soon as he is set free.   We are take to different photographic stops.  It’s a very flat reddish landscape with two rock formations on the horizon which look like two septic boils..  There is more greenery than we had expected.  It had rained last week, the first time since October.  The dust is as bad as we expected.

Dave, our driver, is very pleasant and gives us lots of information whilst we are in his care.

He warns us to stay rigidly to the desert code.  Do not go walkabout without informing someone where you are going and when you will return.  Take one litre of water for every hour you walk and two litres for every hour you walk in the middle of the day.

He tells us that the Australian government returned the lands at Ayers Rock to the Aborigines several years ago and then leased them straight back.  Everyone entering what the government call the “National Park” has to pay 15 dollars toll to the government on top of whatever the tour company has already charged.

Dave also tells us he had climbed Ayers Rock seven times when he was young and ignorant, but will never climb it again.   The Aborigines consider Ayers Rock a holy place and all tour guides are now honour bound to tell the tourists that the Aborigines have requested that the Rock is treated as a sacred place and ask that tourists stop climbing it.  The Aborigines are also fearful as the Rock is eroding.  We can clearly see in the distance the lighter coloured red soil that highlights the path taken to the top of the Rock.  Added to this is the fact that thirty-seven people have had heart attacks whilst climbing the Rock since the start of the year. (It is only March).

For Maureen and I this decision is not a problem.  We are not fit to climb the Rock but in view of what we have just heard, even if we were fit enough, we would not climb it in respect of the Aborigines’ wishes.  For us it will mean a long lie tomorrow. The rest of our party who are climbing tomorrow morning leave at 5 am to view the sunrise and then start their climb.

We are promised a “good sunset” and Dave pulls the coach into the coach car park.  He hands out folding chairs and sets out glasses, wine and nibbles.  We sit to wait out the half hour or so until sunset.   Many other coaches arrive and I count at least twenty.  Maureen and I are sitting quite comfortably when a coach deposits its load of American tourists who proceed to set up camp directly in front of us and spoil our view.  The driver is quite embarrassed by their behaviour and spends the rest of the viewing time talking to us.  We drink white wine whilst the Americans drink champagne.

The Rock changes colour rapidly as dusk descends. The waves of crimson and purple fan over the crevices in the Rock, but for me the most startling event is what is happening to the west of the Rock.  I can see flurries of ever deepening shadows which looks like fine black dust thrown up from the heels of a thousand horses racing.  I ask the Americans’ coach driver, “What’s that over there?”

”You’re seeing the earth spinning into darkness,” he replies.

As I watch this I am aware of seeing the earth’s movement for the first time, that the earth is round and that it is travelling through space.  It’s a mind-numbing sensation and I feel as if something magical has touch my soul and start to shiver as night blankets the Rock and the drivers collect the drained glasses.

We eat in the restaurant at our hotel.  It is self-service and we pay a flat rate of 35 dollars each for our meal.  This is the most expensive meal we have had yet in Australia.

It is very disappointing as there is no bread, little meat and no tomatoes left in the salad.  We do not complain until an Australian does. He loses his temper and is shouting at the staff saying they are cheating the tourists.  We are refunded most of our money but we complain at the main reception desk so they know what is happening in their restaurant. They ask us to book for breakfast but we decline.

 

33 Days in the Wilderness Day 22

We re-pack our bags yet again, have breakfast in the hotel and walk down through the park to Rushcutter’S Bay.

Kay and Trudi pick us up and take us to the GAP.  These are huge rocks that stand each side of the narrow entrance to Sydney Harbour which widens to resemble an opened fan.  There is a lighthouse on the southern side of the GAP and many tourists stop and walk over the rocky path to look at the dark blue choppy water.  The girls drive us to Manley and the wide sandy beach set within the Bay is busy with families enjoying the bright afternoon sunshine.  Craft stalls are set up on the road leading away from the seafront and many shops are open.  A brass band plays in the pedestrian walkway and we sit for a spell and watch the other visitors.

We drive to Trudi’s house.   I have seen this house from photographs over the past thirty years so I feel at home as we walk up the path.  The garden is beautiful and the decor in the house very much like what used to be Trudi’s mother’s home in Edinburgh.  The large back garden is beautiful with banana trees and sub-tropical plants.   However Trudi sweeps away giant cobwebs with a broom before we can walk up the back garden, and she says, “It’s been a bad year for spiders.”

There are cats everywhere.  I don’t know how she remembers the names of them all and Maureen and I secretly count at least twenty.  Trudi was denied the chance to have children and the cats are her family.

The girls drop us off at the station. There are double-decker trains directly into the centre of Sydney.   We again walk up to Hyde Park and get back to Bayside Hotel early evening.  We have to reorganise our bags as we are leaving luggage in store in the Bayside because we are off to Ayers Rock tomorrow.  We only need to pack enough clothes for four days.

33 Days in the Wilderness Day 21

Trudi and Kay have to vote today so we have arranged to meet them tonight.  It’s a fineable offence not to vote in Australia.  Isn’t it convenient that they make voting days a Saturday?

Our task today is to change our tickets at Singapore Airlines so we can have another stopover in Singapore on our way home.  We have breakfast in the hotel and catch the first bus outside to take us to Bridge Street where the Singapore Airlines office is.

It is meltingly hot and we walk up the winding streets.  We are not far from Central Quay but we are a world away from the holidaymakers and tourists.  This is the business and banking area and the buildings are large stone sombre towers.  The streets are quite narrow as they wind down to the harbour area and we eventually find the Singapore Airline office but it is closed.  We must change our flights here as it is the only way we can get a deal on accommodation on our return leg.

We wander on further into the city and go into the foyer of the hotel in Bond Street.  The hotel is large and luxurious and closer to what we have been  used to.  A charming young lad at reception asks if he can help us.  We don’t explain that we are not resident in the hotel and he takes a great deal of trouble and a long time to change our flights for us.  Our change of return date hits the Easter holidays and we have difficulty getting a flight from Singapore to Heathrow.

To our embarrassment he asks for our room number and we have to admit that we are not resident in his hotel but we do tip him heavily for his trouble.  He points us in the direction of a Thomas Cook office so we can book accommodation.

The girl in the Thomas Cook office does a deal for us.  The Orchard is full but we get booked into the Grand Plaza Park Royal.  Four nights cost about £100.  Our change of tickets and vouchers will not be ready until Tuesday or Wednesday.  As we explain we will be in the Outback until Thursday she arranges that the tickets are delivered to the Bayside Hotel.  Next Friday is Good Friday and everything will be closed. We will now arrive in Heathrow late on 8th April and I will arrive in Forenaught in the early hours of 9th April.

We walk through the main shopping streets in Sydney and some of our party from the coach-trip bump into us whilst we are having a cold drink at a pavement cafe.

We find Paddy’s Market in Chinatown and then head on to Darling Harbour and Sydney Aquarium.  The whole area has just ben refurbished and there is an anniversary celebration of the RAAF taking place so there are lots of displays and military people about.  Everyone is very friendly but it is so hot we keep having to stop for cold drinks.

We have a hard time finding our way back to Hyde Park where we catch the bus for Rushcutter’s Bay.  We are again laden with shopping bags.

Our suitcase situation is now getting ridiculous because we have filled those we have taken to bursting zips point and filled the two large flat folding bags Maureen brought and the two red overnight bags supplied by APT.  We have so much stuff crammed in and it is all in such a mess that we have to do something drastic.

Kay and Trudi are having a garage sale in aid of all the stray cats that they adopt and feed so we ruthlessly discard all the clothes we brought, “just in case” and others that we feel we won’t use.

I phone Trudi and they arrange to pick us up at 8 pm at the hotel.  We donate several plastic bags filled with clothes for the good of the stray cats. As long as we only buy small things from now on we should be all right.

The four of us end up going to another sports club, this time the RSL Club.  Were have a meal, not as good as last night’s, play the machines, lose a dollar each and the girls drop us home around midnight.

33 Days in the Wilderness Day 20

We set off a 7,30 am.  Our first stop is Port Macquairie, to the Koala Hospital.  Port Maquairie is set above an idyllic bay.  Again beautiful sandy beaches, flowers and trees.  The streets are wide and tree-lined and most of the housing is one level.  The Koala Hospital project was set up by an Englishman 26 years ago and is run totally by volunteers.  They receive no government funding and all monies donated go to the care and well being of the koalas.  Several of our party adopt Koalas and we all give cash donations as well as buying photographs and cards.  We are supplied with tea and biscuits which they have no permission to charge for so we drop money in a tin. We meet a party of schoolchildren visiting the Hospital as part of a school outing.

The hospital’s biggest need is antibiotics as Koalas suffer rampantly from VD.  The staff treat the Koalas and get them free from disease then they could have a visitor come in overnight and the Koalas will be infected again.  We saw many Koalas up in the trees although they were mostly sleep.

The coach takes us through Port Maquairie but we are told it is mainly a retirement area and there is not much work.

We travel on to Raymond Terrace which is the main shopping town for the area.  We have lunch with Breeda in the mall.  It is now very hot and we have photographs taken with Breeda before we board the coach.

Breeda is dropped off outside a restaurant to await the arrival of her aunt.

We travel through high mountains that have been cut through to get road access.  The valleys are very green and lush,

We drop Milene and her husband, the only Canadians on the trip, off at North Sydney to await the arrival of their family.

The traffic is becoming denser and as we swing around one corner we see a group of children playing cricket in the school playground.

Most of the rest of our party are dropped in Central Sydney adjacent to Hyde Park.

Maureen and I are dropped off with Colette and Bernie at the Bayside Hotel.  We are disappointed with the hotel after the standard we have been used to but the view of Rushcutters’ Bay is superb.

I phone Trudi and she arranges, with her friend Kay,  for us to be collected around 8pm.  The Bayside is at completely the other end of Sydney from where they both live.

Trudi and Kay pick us up and take us to dinner in the Rugby Football Club.  The food is great and reasonably priced,  The Club has three floors and a band is play 60s rock and roll music on the level we are on.  There are gaming machines on all floors and roulette tables and other horse racing games tables.  We each lose a dollar on the one arm bandits.  We watch members use the ATM machines set on each floor and return to the gaming machine to lose more money.

We set off out into the night and find Sydney is much like London at night as it is still as alive as during the day.  The girls give us a whirlwind tour around the city which is well spread out, lush and green with many one way streets.

My great disappointment is the stick insect thinness of Trudi.  Her large eyes are almost luminous.  Her cheek bones and nose are prominent and there seems to be no flesh on her at all.  She is sick.  I feel like Desperate Dan beside her.

348 miles