Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Upside Down - The Final Episode

Day 33 - April 13:

Another sunny day in Sydney for Chad and Dino.  They decided to return to Bondi for a relaxing day on the beach.  This time the spot chosen was between the yellow markers flags making the area safer for swimming.  The water was warmer than the day before and although there was some pull from the surf it was not as strong.

Chad atop the cliffs near Bondi Beach

After working up an appetite, they went for lunch.  C and D were looking for a Sushi place but could not exactly remember where it was and so asked a local for directions. Turns out the guy's girlfriend was from Montreal and he had been to Ottawa several times - that small world again!.  The place had a Sushi Train where the sushi travels on a conveyer belt with coloured plates indicating a different price value.  By the time lunch was over the Sushi Train had stopped 10 times!

Lunch was followed with a visit to some shops near the beach and then a bus ride back to Bondi Junction to check out two area malls.  C and D were surprised to see Lululemon, a Canadian company, in one of the malls.  The sales associate was even more surprised to see two Canadians in Lululemon in Sydney.  After a few purchases, the two returned to the hotel to get ready for another night on the town!

The dinner choice was Hugo's Pizza Bar - voted the best pizza in Australia in 2008 and 2009 by Restaurant and Catering Australia - and the restaurant was only a 5 minute walk from the hotel.  Dino opted for the fig pizza with fresh figs, pancetta, gorgonzola cheese, tomato and basil.  Chad chose the Italian pizza with mini pork and veal meatballs, shaved Parmesan, and tomato oregano salad. The two Ottawa restaurant critics were were not sure if it rated the best meal in Australia but it was "awesome".

C and D opted to retire early since they had a very early start at the fish market the next day.

For Michel and Graham, a sunny morning was a chance to see the Central Station and Haymarket areas, China Town, the Reflecting Pool, Hyde Park, and Sydney Cathedral.  It also was a chance to finish some the Australian souvenir shopping at Paddy's Market and Circular Quay.

 Hyde Park

Once back at the hotel, there was about an hour for a quick change and check of emails before grabbing the shuttle bus to the airport.

The flight was from Sydney to Auckland was with Air New Zealand.  With the thousands of air miles logged by Graham and Michel over the years, both consider Air New Zealand to be the top of the list.  If you get a chance fly the Kiwi Airline.

In the Air New Zealand lounge in Sydney, with Dr. Kaos not even close, Michel put his glass of red wine on a "small metal counter".  Unfortunately, the small counter was really a door and, as the glass descended to the floor, it showered Michel.  This will remind some Ottawa friends of Graham's orange juice incident many years ago at Bill and Wendy's New Year's Day party.

It was close to midnight when M and G landed in Auckland and almost 1:00m a.m. by the time they had checked-in at the Best Western BK Pioneer Lodge near the airport.  Believe it or not, Dr. Kaos helped remove the wine stains - lots of practice perhaps!  It has been a long day and tomorrow would be even longer.

Day 34 - April 14:

Chad and Dino's last full day started very early.  Up at 5:00 a.m. to make their way to the Sydney Fish Market.  They decided to take a Tram ride (i.e. light rail) which was run by a different company.  It cost an additional $5.30 for a round-trip ticket to Central Station.  Both arrived at the Fish Market at 6:45 a.m. for what turned out to be an amazing tour and a chance to see tonnes of different fish being auctioned off.

The tour ended at 9:00 a.m. and since the restaurants in the market were already selling seafood, both chose the breakfast of champions - grilled scallops, grilled oysters (with and without bacon), BBQ baby octopus, calamari, king prawns, pieces of fish, seafood sticks, and of course, the ever popular chips (french fries). 

With breakfast over, it was back on the Tram and, as they approached Paddy's Market, it was off the Tram for some final shopping.  One of the stall keepers at Paddy's Market asked if they worked at the Fish Market.  Their senses were dulled - they stunk of fish! 

After a brief stop at at the hotel to remove the fish smell, it was a short walk to the Sydney Jewish Museum - the only museum visit.  The plan was to tour the museum and then make a final trip to Bondi Beach.  However, even after three hours at the museum there was still more to see.  Both would have spent more time there but they had to end the visit since the museum was closing.

Once back at the hotel it was time for C and D to pack for the trip home the next day.  Their only meal of the day had been breakfast many hours earlier.  So with stomachs growling both headed to Oxford Street for an early dinner and a few drinks.

For Michel and Graham, their last hours in New Zealand were sunny and very warm.  They managed to secure a slightly late check-out from the Best Western BK's Pioneer Lodge (the last hotel).  After several failed attempts they did manage to find a place for a reasonably priced breakfast.  Breakfast actually cost a few more NZ dollars than the total they both had but the waitress took pity on the "poor travellers" and gave them breakfast for the money they had!  What a country to support Canadian Government and Retired individuals.

The shuttle ride got M and G to the airport way ahead of schedule.  The five hours before take-off gave an opportunity to purchase some New Zealand masks, update and post the blog (Episode 7), and chat to two Quebec travellers. - the husband was another Michel  and the wife showed some great pictures of Christchurch before the Quake.  It was disappointing the quake had ruined so much of this special city.   She also showed pictures of some of the most southern parts of the South Island - parts Graham hopes to see on his next visit!.

At 4:30 p.m. on April 14 in Auckland (12:30 a.m on April 14 in Ottawa), it was time board NZ 8.  The flight took off at 5:15 p.m. with the sun setting on an amazing trip.  There would also be some time to sleep on the flight to San Francisco.

For the first two returning travellers the route back stopped in San Francisco (to clear US customs) and Vancouver (to clear Canadian customs).  Both managed to get business class for all the legs and landed in Ottawa on April 15th at 12:30 p.m.  From waking in Auckland at 7:00 a.m. on April 14th to getting home to bed in Ottawa at 2:00 a.m. on April 15th, the total time would be 35 hours!    It would be a late start to their first day back in Ottawa.

Day 35 - April 15:

Chad and Dino's return day also started at 5:00 a.m. in Sydney.  Their return flight was also via Auckland but did not require an overnight stop.  The route was then the same and M and G.  They also managed to get business class seats for all legs and got into Ottawa at 12:30 a.m. on April 16th.  Another 35 hours of travel.

Australian Summary:

Best Experience:  The Great Barrier Reef (C and G),
                           The Great Ocean Road (D),
                           The Southern Sky at Night at Uluru (Ayers Rock) (M)
Best Attraction:     Australian Zoo (C and D), Uluru - Sunset (M) - Sunrise (G)
Biggest Disappointment: Not Getting to Whitsunday Island (C, D and G),
                                      Not Seeing Many Wild Animals (M)
Most Over-rated Attraction: Breakfast with the Birds (G), None (C, D and M)
Best Scientific Experience: The Sands do Squeak in Byron Bay
Best Hotel: Port Douglas Queenslander
Worst Hotel: Outback Pioneer Lodge - Yulara (M and G),
                    Econo Lodge City Park Comfort Inn - Brisbane (C and D)
Best Meal: Pacific Italian Restaurant in Byron Bay (M and G),
                 First Dinner in Melbourne - Steve and Markus (C and D)
Worst Meal: Lunch in Alice Springs (M and G), None (C and D)

Best Memory of the Trip:  The Southern Sky at Night (M), The Great Barrier Reef (C and G)
                                        Michel Teaching Graham How to Operate the Timer on G's Camera (D)

The Ottawa four hope you have enjoyed reading the blog and, through the pictures, have experienced some of the downunder sights. 

Many thanks to the friends and relatives who took care of our houses while we were away.   

It was a trip of a lifetime and some plan to return

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Upside Down - Episode 7

Day 28 - April 8:

The morning drive from Port Stevens to Sydney was probably the last one for the Ottawa traveling four to be confined to a rental car.  As we neared Sydney it was evident the construction of the freeway must have been very costly.  A lot of rocks had to be blasted away to make way for the road.

The way into Sydney was by means of a tunnel that had a $3.00 toll which did not seem unreasonable.  If you were a guest to the city paying the toll was another matter.  The toll had to be paid within three days. The web site did not help and phoning was not an option until Monday, the third and last day.  The call on Monday started getting the toll paid but including the account set-up fee, the video fee and the toll fee the cost just about tripled.  So a reasonable toll fee no longer seemed the case.

We arrived in Sydney a little after mid-day and managed to return another rental car undamaged.  For Graham the drive into the heart of the city was reminiscent of driving into the centre of London. The accommodation for the last days in Australia would be at the Holiday Inn, Potts Point, and very handy to the Kings Cross Train Station.  Indeed, the hotel appeared to be a very good location from which to explore the city on foot or by public transit. The voice in the hotel elevator had an instruction to "hold your card  and push G".  As you can imagine, Graham will be returning to Canada with a few extra bruises!

After checking into the hotel and a brief lunch at a nearby "take-away", it was a nice sunny afternoon and a chance to explore the neighbourhood.  An interesting older area with lots of interesting buildings, restaurants, and bars.  The area had a decidedly British flavour in style and in the street names.

During the afternoon, Michel had to use the facilities of an Italian restaurant and the menu looked good.  When M and G returned for dinner later on in the evening, it turned out to be a good choice as the owner recognized that Michel had come back and provided a caesar salad and two glasses of wine.  C and D took in dinner and a show that turned out to be "odd" and they left halfway through.  After dinner it was time for each to explore Sydney's Friday Nightlife.

Day 29 - April 9:

It was a glorious sunny day for the first full day visiting Sydney. Apparently we were very lucky as this was the first really nice day in over three weeks and the temperature tipped 27 celsius by the afternoon.

After investigating the options for transit passes, the best deal was a seven day pass for unlimited bus, train and ferry travel.

Chad and Dino took off to spend the morning visiting Paddington Market.  The market had a good selection of stalls for local crafts.  After some bartering they got a good deal for a native wood bowl.  They then used their transit passes to take the bus to Darling Harbour.

Michel and Graham got transit passes, took the train to Sydney's CBD (Central Business District), walked to Circular Quay and caught a ferry to Darling Harbour.  The ferry ride gave a first look at the Sydney Bridge and the Opera House.  The cameras were very busy with views of these major attractions and Sydney's skyline.  Sydney is a very clean city with some amazing views.  From the ferry one could see people tackling the Sydney Bridge climb.



Once off the ferry M and G explored the Darlington Harbour dockside.  The harbour was very impressive with some monuments/objects left from when Sydney hosted the Olympic Games in 2000.

At 1:30 p.m. it was time to meet C and D and grab lunch at a food court alongside the harbour.  Once lunch was over and the four got outside, four buskers were getting ready for a performance.  The main performer was from New York and joined by three other "locals".  They put on a very good show and Graham thought he had seen the New York performer some years earlier at Battery Park while waiting for the ferry to the Statue of Liberty.

With the show over, the four took the Pyrmont Bridge, a large pedestrian bridge, to the other side of the harbour. It was decided not to pay the admission fee to visit the Chinese Friendship Garden and so all headed back to the hotel to check emails and prepare for the second night in Sydney.  If you had your own computer, the hotel provided 20 minutes free internet which was enough for a short email fix!

On the Pyrmont Bridge, Chad spotted an announcement for a free fireworks show that night.  Without hesitation, plans were made to return to Darling Harbour for dinner and to watch the fireworks.  We could not find a place for dinner at one of the dockside restaurants, so all settled for take-out and sat on the steps for the fireworks to begin.

It seemed a great way to have an early celebration for Michel's birthday.  With so many years to celebrate, there would not be enough room on the cake for all the candles and a firework display would do the trick!  Once the fireworks were over it was time for drinks at one of the bars.  The host was into "planking", some new facebook experience.  Chad and Dino were pulled out to help "plank".  Another new experience downunder!  Also, Dr. Kaos was in fine form christening Dino with a glass of red wine.

Day 30 - April 10:

Michel and Graham were up early to catch live third round action from the Masters.  With the time difference, the TV coverage started very early and was over by 9:00 a.m Sunday (7:00 p.m. Saturday back in Atlanta).  The Holiday Inn hotel was very close to Kings Cross, one of the real action areas for Sydney's nightly party crowd.  After watching the golf, a short walk to a nearby outdoor cafe for breakfast found some Saturday night party goers still in some of the bars.  Those Aussies certainly do like to drink.

Sunday was the Sydney Triathlon, a sunny and not too hot morning for big event.  As we neared the Circular Quay to catch a  ferry to Manly, some roads were closed for the final running leg.  The runners we saw seemed to be the amateur contestants.

Manly Beach,  about 30 minutes by ferry from Sydney, is a very popular place for both locals and tourists.  Indeed many consider Manly to be much nicer than the famous Bondi Beach.  After embarking and a short walk, we reached the beach.  Clearly many had got to Manly much earlier.  Many were already surfing, playing volleyball or just taking some sun.

By mid-day the skies began to cloud over and the temperatures dropped.  Rather then take to the beach, the four opted to walk along the board-walk, take in the sites, and grab some lunch.  After a walk through a little market and a look at some of Manly's shops, the rain looked eminent so we headed to the wharf to catch the ferry for the return trip.  By the time the ferry neared the Circular Quay, the rain and wind forced many to take cover inside the boat..

Back at the hotel, the earlier than anticipated end to the Manly day left time to take care of some washing and other tasks.  It also left time to discuss options for the last few days of the trip.  The rain was forecast to end overnight and then sunny and warm for the final days in Sydney.  It should be a great last days to a remarkable five weeks.

Day 31 - April 11:

For Michel and Graham, another early start to watch the final holes of The Masters.  It certainly was a close finish and, for the Aussies, a disappointing one with three Australian players just losing out to the South African.  As non-golfers, Chad and Dino took the opportunity for a later start to the day.

The rain had ended overnight and it was another glorious day in Sydney.  The four headed to Milsons Point, a train stop on the north side of the Sydney Bridge so that they could walk back over the Sydney Bridge.  The four opted for the free walk rather than pay the $250.00 to go over the top.  Even though this walk was not as high as those overhead, the views were still magnificent.

With the bridge walk completed it was a chance to visit an area known as "The Rocks".  From the Rocks the walk wound round Circular Quay and then to the Sydney Opera House.  This provided the first close-up look.  What an architectural symbol and a Sydney icon.  You can guess how many pictures were taken from the many viewpoints?

Chad and Dino booked an afternoon tour of the Opera House and, as Michel and Graham had booked for the evening performance of Rachmaninoff's 3rd Piano Concerto, they picked up their tickets. The performance would take place in the Concert Hall - the largest of the Opera House venues.  A quick stop in the souvenir shop and it was time for lunch in the Opera Bar.

After lunch, C and D left for the Opera tour and followed this by a walk through Sydney's CBD, a pedestrian precinct and a look at Government House and the Botanic Gardens.  Michel and Graham walked from the Opera House to the Domains (a park space for public use).  They would also see Government House, the Sydney Botanic Garden, the Art Gallery of New South Wales, the Sydney Hospital and the NSW Parliament Building - not a building you would imagine as the "seat of power" for NSW.

Ready for their night at the Concert Hall, Michel and Graham made their way back to the Opera House for dinner and pictures of Sydney as the sun went down.  What a great venue and an excellent performance.  Once the concerto was over they made their way to the Opera Bar to meet C and D.  A relaxing drink and then the final event for the day.  A night-time ferry ride from Circular Quay and back.  It had been recommended to see the harbour by night and this was certainly not something to miss.  On this ride the four were the only ones on the ferry for a personal night-time ride.

C and D have three more days before they head back but M and G only have a full day on Tuesday.  These last days are rushing by.

Day 32 - April 12:

The good weather continued for Day 32.

Michel uttered the banned word "work" and decided to stay close to the hotel.  He would only have a week back in Ottawa before heading to China and wanted to get a heads start on things with little time before his next trip. So the three musketeers. C. D and G headed out into the sun.

A two-stop train ride to Bondi Junction and a 15 minute bus ride on the 380 got the three to Bondi Beach.  The sea was a bright turquoise colour and with some schools out for the Easter break, the beach was quite busy.  Before trying out the water it was a cliff walk to get views of Tamarama and Bronte Beaches.  The views were very nice and the cliffs had been carved by many centuries of sea, wind and rain.  There were many on the cliff walk for their daily run and exercise routine.

Once back at Bondi, Dino relaxed on the broad-walk and Chad and Graham took to the water.  One surfer did a run around Chad and one strong wave tossed both of them into the surf. Luckily they found their way to the surface and survived. Comments had been that Bondi beach was overrated and Manly was much better.  We were not as lucky with the weather on Sunday when we visited Manly Beach trip but we enjoyed Manly and all three really liked Bondi.  We would very much like to visit Bondi again.

After a short wait for another 380 bus it was on to Watsons Bay.  Watsons Bay had some amazing views of the Sydney skyline in the distance.  As recommended by almost everyone, lunch would be at Doyles Fish Restaurant.

There were two places to get food, one for take-out and one a sit down restaurant.  C D and G opted for the sit down option.  We got  seated and the waiter kindly took a group picture.  We opened the menu and yes there was fish and chips but the price almost knocked us off our seats - over $40.00 for fish and chips.  We did not stay to check why it was so costly and quickly left to line-up at the take out.  From what we were told the food was the same and the take-out price was only $11.80.  The food came in boxes and we still managed to find a table for lunch!

A short walk from Doyles, was the "Gap Bluff", a cliff area with some great views.  At one of the high points some other tourists walked by and commented, "sea and cliffs and more sea and cliffs".  At the next stop the same comment was made and this prompted a short discussion.  Two of them were from Kanata! - these Ottawa tourists are everywhere.
At 3:50 p.m. it was all aboard the ferry to Circular Quay.  We were not sure what was going to happen in Watsons Bay as American and Australian military personnel also got on the ferry.  This was a high speed ferry which showered of of us in back as we left Watsons Bay Wharf.  Including two stops it only took 20 minutes to get to Circular Quay which is not that short a ride.  The ride gave more great views of the Sydney Bridge, the Opera House and the skyline.

The train system throughout Sydney uses two decker trains, a very efficient system.  On the train ride back to Kings Cross Graham tried to get a picture of Chad and Dino on the lower level.

Once back at the hotel it was time to find out how Michel had spent his day - very boring! - and to let him know what he had missed.  For the Graham's last night, and having had a large fish and chip lunch, he offered to skip dinner and let the other three get their fix of Indian food - what a trooper.  A little later, Graham joined the other three for a drinks and to celebrate the final night for Ottawa's four.

For Michel and Graham there would be one more chance to look around Sydney on Wednesday morning before beginning the flight back to Ottawa with a night's stop-over in Auckland.  Chad an Dino had two more days before heading back on April 15.

The Upside Down Final Episode will wrap up an amazing five weeks.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Upside Down - Episode 6

Day 23 - April 2:

It had only been one night in Brisbane and the city, Australia's second largest, but it looked like an interesting place to return. Today starts the drive to Sydney but would begin with a slight detour north.

The change in plans resulting from the blocked roads meant that planned visits to Townsville, Whitsunday and Rockhampton had to be canceled.  The main disappointment was Whitsunday since a tour of Whitsunday Island, a visit to Whitehaven Beach (voted #1 in the world) and some more snorkeling would not happen.

Also it had been hoped to visit Noosa and the Australia Zoo (Steve Irwin's Zoo) just before we reached Brisbane.  Since both were only an hour north of Brisbane it was decided to head up on April 2nd and take a look.  Most hotels and motels in Noosa want 2, 5 or 7 night stays so we were lucky to find one for Saturday night only.

Chad had a screw loose (in his prescription glasses!) so, after leaving the Brisbane Hotel, a short stop was made at a nearby mall for breakfast and to allow Chad to get his screw tightened.

The drive out of Brisbane was slow but once on the highway we headed north and by mid-day we reached the Steve Irwin's Zoo - Australia's number on tourist attraction.   Chad and Dino visited the zoo while Michel and Graham decided to drive on and have a chance to see Noosa National Park. 

C and D had a great afternoon, with Crocodile and Kangaroo feedings, an elephant performance, and a chance to get up close and personal we some Koala bears.  At 4:00 p.m. they boarded the free shuttle to Noosa.  Unfortunately, four hours was not long enough to see all parts of the Zoo (some 75 acres).

Michel and Graham reached Noosa by around 1:15 p.m. and checked-in at the Noosa Heads Motel.  The Motel was only three years old and the location and rooms were excellent.  A quick change and it was off to Hastings Street, the main street in Noosa, for a light lunch just off the beach.

Noosa is a beachside town very popular for surfers and those from the Brisbane area.  Many were on the beach and catching a wave.  A highly recommended attraction was to take the walk along the main beach and up into Noosa National Park.  M and G could only do the ocean walk which wound take them along the cliffs and passed various bays - the views were amazing.  All the bays had its collection of surfers although some were surfing very close to rocks which did not appear to pose a threat.

It took about an hour to reach the major headland, Hell's Gate, where Michel started to script a murder mystery.  Any guesses who was going to be got rid of.  Another hour for the walk back, just in time to meet Chad and Dino off the bus.  Both groups having had a great afternoon.

Following gorgeous sunset from the motel balcony, it was time for dinner at a restaurant on Hasting Street was followed by a walk through the town and along the beach and then the short drive back to the Motel.

Day 24 - April 3:

During the walk along the beach the previous evening, it was decided to return to have breakfast at Bistro C, one of the restaurants recommended in the Frommer's Guide.  It was a very popular location and the breakfast, although not cheap, was very good.

Before heading south to Byron Bay, the group took a slight detour to see the Eumundi Open Air Market.  Unfortunately, it was  closed on Sundays.  A look around saw an announcement at Joe's Waterhole for Dino and his father's performance.  We were not sure what they were going to do but at least Dino was here to check on things!

The drive from Eumundi to Byron Bay took about four hours and thankfully avoided driving through Brisbane.  It was 3:15 p.m. when we reached the Beachcomber Byron Motel, only a five minute walk to the beach.  A nice Canadian connection with the Motel was that the wife of the couple that ran the motel was originally from Edmonton who married an Aussie.

It was only for an hour but at least Michel and Graham got a chance to lay on the squeaky sand (does any know why?), and for Chad and Dino to fight the surf.  As the sun lowered in the sky it was time to head back to the motel.

The Beachcomber was also very close to the town centre with lots of restaurants and bars, not all open later on a Sunday.  Dinner was at the Orient Express.  We did not get murdered but it did seem we got taken.  They had a 10% charge which the waitress explained was a Sunday night charge  for those in the back!  Apparently this is true as several restaurants add a surcharge for Sundays and holidays so that they can pay the staff more and persuade them to not phone in sick after heavy drinking the night before!

The day ended with some time spent walking the streets of Byron Bay and final drinks at the Balcony Bar overlooking the town's main intersection.  We were all looking forward to a quite day on the beach for Day 25.
Day 25 - April 4:

After a lot of traveling this was a day to relax. 

Graham and Dino were up early and, as is the custom, Michel and Chad continued catching some more shuteye.  The rooms and facilities at the Byron Beachcomber were very good and the motel even offered free laundry.  This provided a good chance to catch up on the washing before heading out for a day at the beach.

A short drive to the Broken Head Nature Reserve and a walk down some sloping paths and more than 250 steps lead to Kings Beach, a part of 7 mile beach.  A day at the beach was actually three hours when a heavy rain shower moved in.  A quick pack-up of all the gear and a quick walk back up the 250 steps got everyone to the car before the rains started.

Back in Byron  Bay, a take-out lunch was obtained which was eaten in the Bar-B-Q area at the hotel.

When Graham was in the last year of his Ph.D. in Calgary he met an Australian student, Greg Reddan who was completing a bachelors degree in Phys Ed.  Greg then went to the University of Ottawa for a Masters Degree and then back to Australia.  He currently lives with his wife and one of his children in Benowa, about an hour south of Brisbane.  Greg drove the hour to meet in Byron Bay and about three hours was spent catching up on all the news.  Luckily, they were under cover when a heavy downpour started.  2011 must be the year for connecting since, in June, Greg will be visiting Ottawa on business.  So it will be twice in two months after more than 40 years.

Once Greg left to drive back to Benowa it was time for drinks and dinner.  An excellent meal at the "Italian Pacific" just a short distance from the ocean. Michel raved about the veal he had for dinner that night, probably one of his best meal of the trip.

Day 26 - April 5:

It was raining hard as the four left for the drive from Bryon Bay, via Bellina to Coffs Harbour.  The drive would take about 4 hours and as it got further south the weather improved. About 45 minutes outside Coffs Harbour it was time for a "pitt-stop".  A good time to take a break as there was about four wild Kangaroos grazing close at hand.

Once in Coffs Harbour and checked-in at the Big Windmill Comfort Inn Motor Inn, the stomachs were growling.  The first choice was at a Fisherman's Co-op very close to the beach.  The menu was very limited so we headed back to a very nice coffee shop where the food was excellent - have you ever tried beer-battered chips with your burger?

Michel and Dino were going to drop Chad and Graham off for an hour at the beach but as they made it to the sands the winds, temperature and black clouds meant a change of options.

After a brief stop to walk around the city centre, it was back to the Comfort Inn for Michel and Graham to relax while Chad and Dino continued to help stimulate the Australian economy.  It was then time for dinner at SSC Bar-B-Q Barn where our waitress was Australian who had twice driven across Canada.

Day 27 - April 6:

All night it had been raining and it was still raining as Day 27 dawned.

The hotel had a big windmill in the front and perhaps if the windmill had been turning it might have helped get hot water to the bathroom sink in Michel and Graham's unit.  After 10 minutes and a lot of wasted water, no hot water had made it to the sink. Fortunately, the hot water did finally make it to the shower but the only way to get hot for the sink was to boil it.  When M and G checked-out and explained the situation to the desk clerk the only reply was that their unit was at the end of the run and one had to wait.  I am not sure if it would have arrived before they had to check out.  Chad and Dino were luckier and did not have any problems.  Michel did not consider it to be a Dr. Kaos problem!

The drive from Coffs Harbour to Port Stevens, with stops, took 6 hours.  Sunshine and some heavy showers were part of the drive and as we drove into Port Stevens it seemed the skies had cleared for the day.  The accommodation for this stop was the All Seasons Salamander Shores Hotel.  Chad and Dino's room was on the ground floor overlooking the garden and Michel and Graham (for $20.00 more) were on the 4th floor with a view of the ocean.

As soon as C and D walked into the garden and M and G looked from their balcony above, some rainbow coloured parrots, called Larikeets, flew in for a feeding from the "bird whisperer".

The sun was shining as the four walked to take a look at the beach adjacent to the hotel.  The Frommers Guide recommended "The Rock Lobster" in Nelson Bay as a good place for dinner.  Dino, Chad and Graham drove to Nelson Bay Harbour to verify the location and prices - with a view of the harbour and a nice selection of seafood, it looked like a good pace for dinner.

Back at the Rock Lobster, and just before sitting down for dinner, there were cockroaches on the floor and the waitress was trying to step on them.  As you can imagine we decided to choose another place to eat.  Down the road was the Nelson Bay Diggers, an RSL (Returning Servicemen League) Club.  Before leaving Canada RSL Clubs we were told that they were open to guests and a very good place for reasonably price food and drinks.  This was indeed the case at this RSL.

After dinner and drinks at a local pub in downtown Nelson Bay, we headed back to the hotel for a few games of pool. Uncharacteristically, Michel lost to both Dino and Graham before calling it a night. It needs to be known that the defeats were due to chance since M had trounced them both on sinking the colours but unfortunately sank the cue ball along with the black; The cue being the real culprit of his defeats (according to M!).

Day 27 - April 7:

As there may not be a chance in Sydney, today was a day to spend at the beach.  Three beaches were looked at before deciding on One Mile Beach only 10 minutes from the hotel.  It was not a very warm and sunny day but C and D jumped in the weather while M and G kept and eye on the sand and surf! 

Australians are very friendly and while at the beach, Ben, a native from Sydney and whose parents have a home in Port Stephens, struck up a conversation.  Not only did he give us some excellent tips for our time in Sydney and the drive to the Blue Mountains, but he also mentioned Gamefish as a good place for lunch in Shoal Bay. 

The skies began to threaten so we left the beach and took up the suggestion and joined Ben at the Gamefish for lunch.  Chad and Dino each chose the combo calamari, fish and chips plate.  Neither realized how much food they would get.

Back at the hotel the afternoon was spent at the pool. As true Canadians they stayed at the pool even if the temperatures were a little cool!

The Rainbow Lorikeets flew in for another feeding and , as the sun set it was time to get ready for dinner at the Hotel.

Day 28 (April 8) would start the final leg of the trip - the drive to Sydney and exploring the city and its attractions..