Saturday, October 18, 2003

Hello from Singapore

Well, I still have time to kill in Singapore. I arrived, shopped, ate, checked e-mail, shopped some more, ate some more, and there is still over an hour left to kill (more like 2, actually), so why not write a journal entry?

Oh what a hard morning. Peggy and I were up until after midnight, frantically burning CDs (all the photos we've taken over the past six weeks--I think they fill five CDs. We are very prolific).

We were getting up at 4 a.m., so it didn't leave long to sleep. Chippa, settled comfortably on the couch for the night, checked on both of us during the night. She knew something was up.

It was a weepy awakening, shower, coffee, more tears. Chippa kept pawing me as if to say "don't go."

But it was time to go. As I struggled with my bags, to remove them from the guest room, Chippa showed up with a new stuffed roo in her mouth--I've named it "Chipparoo" and it is the perfect souvenir. Peggy bought it at Caversham Park while I was browsing the gift shop. Kangaroos have played such a bit part in my time in Australia, that having "Chipparoo" to bring home is perfect. She kept her head poking out of my backpack, like a joey in a mother's pouch, while I checked in.

Difficult drive to the airport. Peggy asked if I wanted her to help me with my bags (since they are so big and so bulky), but neither of us wanted to prolong the goodbyes--we are both so terrible at them--so it was a quick hug at curbside and I managed to get to the Qantas counter by myself.

Did some shopping and eating and more shopping at the airport, and then boarded the plane. Unfortunately, there was a mother with two children, one of them a daughter who looked to be about a year old, sitting two rows in front of me. Part of me felt sympathy for her because I know what it's like to travel with a difficult child. Part of me was ready to fight for infantacide by the time we landed in Singapore. The little girl either screamed or shrieked (depending on whether she was happy or unhappy) the entire 5 hour flight.

I managed to get an hour of sleep, but not more than that.

Qantas service cannot be faulted. Their food was very good, their attention was very good, their attention to passenger needs was very good. It was the first time, however, that I realized that a digital camera was considered an electronic device (don't know why I didn't realize that). I was going to take pictures coming into Singapore, but was told I had to turn the camera off. So I have pictures--spectacular pictures--flying over Perth when we left, but nothing coming into Singapore.

We flew out quite a ways from the coast going up Western Australia, which is too bad, because I hoped to try to pick out Monkey Mia, but it was too far away. However, the map on the monitor did show me when we were over Geralton. I have lovely memories of our time(s) in Geralton, so I smiled as I recalled them...thinking of the assault on the Rivers shoe store, the time at the war memorial (with the woman who tried to peek up the skirt of the statue there), our stormy trip out to get take-away chicken, getting lost in town (little did we know how prophetic that would be--it was our first day on our first trip!), and so many other lovely memories of Geralton.

But Geralton passed, and then Monkey Mia, somewhere out there in the clouds, passed, and then Australia passed and it was on the Indonesia and ultimately Singapore.

The aiport is quite a bit busier than when I was here six weeks ago. All the shops are open (bad thing for me), but I actually haven't bought anything much. Junky stuff.

I've checked e-mail while here and already had word from Peggy that Chippa misses me and keeps checking to see where I've gone. I really came to love that dog. Keno, too, but Chippa was special.

And now time to do one more turn of the shops to see if there is anything left in Singapore that I absolutely can't live without (and am willing to carry) and then to park myself at gate F-52 to wait until time to board the plane. I have a brand new Kay Scarpetta (Patricia Cornwell) book that I'm reading and that, plus my choice of in-flight movies, should help me sleep and pass the 18 hours or so before we finally land in SF.

This time tomorrow I'll be back in Davis and Australia will seem very far away. It is very far away. But keeping my eyes on 2005 when Thelma and Louise will hit the Nullabor. Hang on, Thelma--I will be back...


Friday, October 17, 2003

Tick, Tick, Tick

Tick...tick...tick... The clock is ticking much too fast and it is too short a time before I'll be headed to the airport. There will probably be a day's gap in entries, I suspect. Not that it will really bother anybody.
We got an early start this morning and were at the park before 6 a.m., in time to watch the sunrise.
The day brought my time in Australia full circle, like the whole six weeks was enclosed in one gigantic parenthesis. The first day I was here, we went to the park and saw roos running up into the hills, and it rained. We haven't seen roos in the bush since, but today there were 3 running up into the hills...and it rained. It was kind of like a signal--OK: you've seen it all now, time to go.
Peggy MorrisonBecause it rained today, it gives me the chance to use this photo from the other day, when we got busy doing other things and the morning's walk took a back seat in the journal entry. We had gone to the park with Janne and with Anne and it started to rain. We all took cover under a tree until the storm passed, but Peggy tore open one of the plastic dog poo bags everyone uses here (a clean one) and put it over her head to protect her from the rain (I, of course, stepped out into the downpour to get a photo). She looked like a little Dutch girl with a turned up little hat.
But no poo bags on the head today. The rain didn't last, and we made it back to the car. I turned and took one last look at the park which has been one of the real joys of starting each morning. Chippa raced toward the car, Keno plodded along behind on her big, flat feet, and my days of running the dogs came to an end.
The end of the walk added one new adventure to my time in Australia: I came home and went to get in the shower, noticed something strange below my knee, checked with Peggy and yes, all the chasing of the roos through the more bushy area of the bush had picked me up a tick. Peggy, an old hand with ticks, smoked the thing out with a cigarette and managed to get it removed with tweezers and a needle. Surprisingly, it didn't really hurt.
Then there was a load of wash to do. Got all my clothes in the washer and hung up on the line and about an hour before they were dry enough to consider bringing in, it started to pour, and we had to finish drying them inside before I could finish packing. However, Peggy did finally record that I have actually hung cothes on a line while here (several times, in fact).
The day itself was spent alternately watching the Red Sox lose their chance to get in the World Series, finishing up projects we've been 'going to do' for weeks now and never started, and getting all of my stuff into suitcases.
Packing was a daunting task. I had no idea I'd bought so much stuff. Even with the vacuum sealed bags that I'd purchased before leaving home, there was still so much--and so many oddly shaped pieces. I hardly knew where to start, and so I kept doing bits and pieces of it, but not making much headway, which was driving Peggy nuts (I think she was afraid I'd actually have to stay longer!).
It was the damn shoes. So many shoes! How did I acquire so many shoes? I finally decided there was no way I was going to be able to pack them all, so put together a box to mail home, hoping I could get away with just one box.
Peggy finally decided I was never going to finish packing and she became a whirling dervish. In a short time she had given me a bigger suitcase, unpacked everything I'd done, repacked it all (including what I'd packed in the box), and I now have the world's heaviest suitcase(s) and will undoubtedly be paying a fine for heavy luggage--but I don't have to pay postage to send any of it home...and it's done. Well, except for last minute clothes, which I will stick in in the morning.
The mail brought a going-away gift from Claire and Penny, who sent me a book about the attractions of the SouthWest, so I could have a memory of what we've seen and see the things that we missed. It was very sweet of them to think of me. (Two days ago, I received a going away postcard and bookmark from Sue and Irene, in Melbourne, whom I've never met, but who have been following our exploits via this journal.)
Tonight we had a riotious farewell dinner with Janne, Chris, Anne and Julie. It was absolutely the perfect way to bring this trip to an end. The high (or low) point was a riotious discussion about grammar school reading primers. In the States we had Dick and Jane (and Puff and Spot). Here they had either Dick and Dora or John and Betty and there was much discussion over the pets' names, with Chris finally getting up to go to the next table to take a poll. The waitress also weighed in on the subject.
When it was over, and I'd had my tearful farewell with Anne and Julie, the rest of us got into Peggy's car and these six old ladies went drag racing like old farts (not exceeding the speed limit) down the highway to home. We almost hoped we'd get pulled over by the cops just to see the look on their faces when they looked into the car.
But no. We made it back to Janne & Chris's without incident. They gave me a lovely book about Australia and we had a very heartfelt and tearful farewell. Peggy and I are spending the rest of the evening burning the final CDs and hoping they fit in the suitcase.
Then there is nothing else to do but get on the plane and head back over the rainbow and see what's lurking in my own front yard. It's been...amazing. I go home with a heavy, but a very full heart, a whole new circle of friends, wonderful memories and about a bazillion digital photos to (some day) get into slide shows.

Thursday, October 16, 2003

Swan Lake

We tentatively planned to go to Rottnest Island today. It was the only tentatively thing planned on this trip that we hadn't gotten to yet.'s all winding down, we're both "traveled out" and Rottnest just didn't seem that important. I plan to return, if not next year, then the year after, and we can leave Rottnest for that time.

We had a good run at the park this morning. It was a bit of everything--as if the park was starting to say goodbye. We got there to morning mist through the trees, the dogs had a great run, there were spiderwebs, frost on the leaves, and lots of birds in the "bird tree." What's more we had our cameras with us, and Peggy even managed to take a bunch of short movies which she strung together into an almost 10 minute movie of the dogs on their morning walk. It's a perfect memento.

One of the things I will miss most here is the sight of Chippa racing through the bush, jumping over shrubbery, tongue hanging out, ears flapping in the breeze. I've come to really love that dog.

We still have a lot of piddly details to do--computer stuff, and (for me) packing. As I told someone, I have the horrible feeling that putting all this stuff in my suitcase (and the second one I bought) is going to be very similar to stuffing a dozen clowns in a little tiny circus car. I may have to send stuff back.

So, faced with a mountain to pack into a molehill, I did the only logical thing: I went out and bought more stuff.

Despite the fact that I've been here so long, I haven't really been in Perth proper. I've skirted the edges, I've been to the zoo, I've been to the mall, but really hadn't seen Perth. I also thought I might like to go back to the mall and get a few last minute things.

We started at the famous (new) bell tower, which books will tell you is Perth's premiere attraction (though there may be some disagreement among disgruntled citizens, who feel it was a waste of money). The Swan Bells include the twelve bells of St Martin-in-the-Fields which are recorded as being in existence from before the 14th century and recast in the 16th century by Queen Elizabeth I. The bells were again recast between 1725 and 1770 by three generations of the Rudhall family of bell founders from Gloucester in England, under the order of the Prince of Wales who was later crowned as King George II. They are one of the few sets of royal bells and are the only ones known to have left England. From one of London's most famous churches, in Trafalgar Square, the St Martin-in-the-Fields bells have rung out to celebrate many historic events.

England's victory over the Spanish Armada in 1588, the homecoming of Captain James Cook after his voyage of discovery in 1771 and the World War II victory at El Alamein in 1942 are just a few of the momentous occasions marked by the bells. The bells have also rung in the New Year at Trafalgar Square for more than 275 years, and have celebrated the coronation of every British monarch since King George II in 1727.

Commemorating Australia's bicentenary in 1988, the twelve bells of St Martin-in-the-Fields as well as five specially cast bells were presented to the University of Western Australia, the City of Perth and to the people of Western Australia.

The London diocese of the Church of England and the parish of St Martin-in-the-Fields gave authority for the project to proceed. The additional bells cast in 1988 include two from the cities of London and Westminster, who each gifted one bell to the project, and a total of three bells bestowed by a consortium of British and Australian mining companies. Completing the ring of eighteen bells, a sixth new bell was commissioned by the Western Australian Government to mark the second millennium.

The above bit of background came from the bells' home page, which I didn't read until after we returned home, so I didn't know all of that. What I knew was that the bell tower was situated smack dab in the middle of Tourist Central, and we headed for the shops (since the parking ticket machine didn't work and we only had an hour). Instead of paying $6 to enter the bell tower and climb the 6 flights of steps as far up as you can go, we spent most of our time in the shops buying the aforementioned last minute things, and stopping at a take-away to get sandwiches for lunch.

But we did hear the bells ringing, and sat on a bench in front of them, eating our sandwiches and fending off obstreperous seagulls, all of whom were, again, skreeching "Mine! Mine! Mine!"

The time on the parking ticket up (no meters here; you buy a ticket and leave it on your dashboard, even on the city streets), we drove some more, and Peggy took me to the grounds of the hospital where she works. I was very glad to see it because it's much larger than I imagined and it's nice to have things all in perspective (I now also know where Monty works and where Janne works.)

There is a lake in front of the main hospital building.

I realized I was leaving this city whose symbol is a black swan, without ever seeing one here. So we stopped by a park which was filled with black swans, ducks, signets, and other birds. The one thing I just love about this place is that it seems there is a park every couple of blocks, all spacious with rolling green hills, beautiful trees, very few people, and lots of wildlife.

In the evening we went round to Monty and Carolynn's for tea. Carolynn had spent 2 hrs preparing a special seafood pie, with muffins for dessert. I had heard so much about these two before I came here and I've been delighted to have the opportunity to meet them and to spend time getting to know them. Our bike ride yesterday will stand out as one of the memorable moments of the trip. It was difficult to say goodbye, but I'm sure I'll see them again.

So having spent a "Swan Lake" sort of day, tomorrow is my swansong day. I've been fighting the weepies for a few days now. But it has been an amazing walkabout and it's time to go home.

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

I Don't Know Why I Swallowed a Fly

As the song goes, "there was an old lady who swallowed a fly...perhaps she'll die.

Australian flies are particularly irritating buggers. They are small, don't buzz loudly, but are always there and you can't get rid of them. Peggy tells me that I've perfected the "Aussie salute," which is accomplished with a wave of the hand across your face to brush away whichever fly has chosen you as his special person for the moment. Brush, then brush again, then brush again. The fly never takes the hint (I know people like that...). On our time going north, whenever we got out to photograph wildflowers, I began to understand all those natives in Third World countries who stand for National Geographic cameras, flies stuck to them everywhere. After awhile it becomes "why bother?" It's an exercise in futility.

I do, however, draw the line at actually injesting flies. The very idea recalls Marty Feldman as Igor in "Young Frankenstein."

Today was a red letter day. Until the fly episode, I was going to thrill SecraTerri and entitle this entry "Shimano components" because I remember when Terri raved about getting Shimano components for her bike. After nearly 6 weeks here, in this land whose bike paths put Davis, "the city of bikes," to shame, I was finally going to ride a bike.

Peggy dusted off her bike (unused since her own fall on her first ride, 2 years ago) and brought it out into the patio area for me. I looked at it and my heart leaped up. The bloody thing had Shimano components coming out the yin yang. Now, I honestly don't know what Shimano components are, or why they make Terri excited, but I gather that the Shimano company makes really good stuff and this baby was loaded with all sorts of doo dads which all had "Shimano" stamped on them. Hot damn. I was ready.

We decided I should at least take it out for a test run. It had, after all, been four months since I'd been on a bike.

I decided to pedal around the block. To get here to Peggy's house, you have to come up an incline, similar to the formerly horrible overpass I finally conquered in Davis, and with no exercise whatsoever under my belt for four months, I didn't think I was ready to try going up this hill (and how embarrassing to walk the bike up the hill!). But to go round a couple of blocks was all flat, so I put on Peggy's much too small biking helmet, tried to remember how to actually get on a bike, and set off.

I had gone the equivalent of two blocks when I encountered a car coming straight for me. that's when I remembered I was in a country that thinks one should drive on the left hand side of the road, so I moved over. (Peggy says "Now do you see why I wouldn't let you behind the wheel of my car?")

I safely maneuvered the equivalent of about 4 blocks and made it home unscathed. I was ready for Monty and Carolynn, who had invited me to come biking along the coast bike path today. You can bike the whole length, from Perth to Fremantle, but Monty had kindly chosen a relatively flat (in most spots) stretch of about 5-6 miles for us to ride, after which we would meet Peggy for lunch.

We followed Monty and Carolynn to Mullaloo Beach, unloaded the cars, got our water bottles, straddled the bikes, and we were ready to leave. Peggy, chuckling at the whole idea, took our photo, got in the car with her new book, and drove off to Hillary's Marina to meet us when we'd completed the ride.

As we continued down the path, I discovered that it really is "like riding a bicycle" and that it all comes back to you. Though I expected my legs to turn to jelly and my breath to come in heavy pants, the more we rode, the better I felt. I was using higher gears and my legs were responding, as if awakened from a long sleep. Let it not be said that I am any sort of expert biker, but I hadn't turned completely to mush during my four month hiatus.

The path is beautiful. Smooth, mostly flat, and it goes right along the edge of the beach. Sometime the view of the water is obscured briefly by a sand dune, but mostly the whole time you are in view of that beautiful blue water, and getting the benefit of the sea breeze.

After we had gone probably a mile and a half or two miles, we stopped at a beach to take a break, and to walk along the water's edge. This panorama shot isn't terrific, but gives you an idea of the vastness...and the lack of people.

It was after our stop at the beach that I had my fly encounter. I'd been performing the Aussie salute for some time and made the mistake of taking a big breath at an inopportune moment and felt the fly fly right into my mouth and stick at the back of my throat. Yuck. (I thought about the time Judy Garland said she was singing "Over the Rainbow" at the Hollywood Bowl and had a moth fly into her mouth.)

I was surprisingly not totally grossed out by the experience, though I did stop to take a swig of water to wash the damn thing down. Well, at least I've ridded Western Australia of one nasty bugger, and so far my system seems none the worse for wear.

We watched a military plane pass low over the ocean and drop a life raft (a training maneuver, Monty told me), and we passed by a lovely little lagoon, with a nice bridge over a duck pond where people had thrown crumpets that looked like mushrooms.

We also saw some kids taking a kayaking class at Hillary's Marina. Now that's an interesting gym class!

We were meeting Peggy at 12:30 and got to Hillary's sooner than expected, so we biked another mile or so and I made it up a "hill" (well, not really a "hill" but an incline). We did hit a patch of sand at one point, however. Peggy's bike is a mountain bike, so should work all right on uneven and weird surfaces, but it ended up being a kind of strain on my shoulder (which had been letting me know that it had been a long time since it had to grip handlebars). It didn't exactly injure the shoulder, but I wanted to be cautious, so decided not to do the return trip with Monty and Carolynn after we all had lunch at Spinnakers restaurant on the marina.

It felt so good to be out on a bike again. I can feel that I'm not exactly back 100%, but I'm back enough to do short rides again, and if you are going to do a short bike ride, my god, you couldn't ask for a more gorgeous one.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

I Apologize

I need to apologize to the country of Australia.

A week or so ago, I wrote an entry about differences I observe here from what I'm accustomed to at home. Peggy's local supermarket, Dewson's, was prominently featured and I contrasted the one here with the one in Margaret River and the one in Mt. Barker. I talked about the lack of "vastness," the fact that you bag your own groceries, etc., etc., etc.

Concerned messages came in from Australian readers (most of whom know Peggy), telling me that this country does, indeed, have super stores where supplies are plentiful and where clerks will cheerfully bag your groceries for you.

Today, Peggy was shamed into taking me to one.

So I am here to publicly apologize to the country of Australia (or perhaps just the state of Western Australia) for so vastly underrating its position in modern society.

We went to "Action," a huge supermarket. The bread section alone is mind-boggling.

As is the produce section.

And yes, there are wide aisles, lots of checkers, and they bag your groceries for you. Silly me.

I spent a lot of time looking at prices of things. most things were on a par with US prices (especially if you take into account the exchange rate), but I was definitely appalled to find the prices of jellybellies. (Yes, that says $39.99!) Heck, if I'd known this I could have been rich here! (Assuming I could find someone silly enough to buy jelly bellies from me!) I brought over enough jelly bellies to pay for my trip, at these prices!

Naturally, as with any huge supermarket, there are bargains to be had. Peggy spied a display of knives as we came in the door.

It was 41 pieces, including measuring cups, hanging rack, at least 6 steak knives and a block to hold them. Now, Peggy does not cook (it's not that she can't...she's quite a good cook when she wants to be--it's just that it's not a priority for her). She does not entertain. She's managed wonderfully having me here and I haven't had to eat dog soup too many nights. But I don't see her throwing any grand parties after I leave (other than to celebrate getting her house back to herself, that is...but that will probably be a party for one human and two dogs). So buying a 41 piece knife set seems rather silly. But--it was a bargain at only $8.95 and her eyes lit up as she grabbed it. "I can't pass this up," she said.

Now we've unpacked (and washed) all the knives and I suppose they will be a lovely thing to dust in the coming weeks.

This morning I had another new experience. Knowing that I arrive home on the 18th and that we leave for Santa Barbara on the 22nd for Tom's wedding, and knowing that my hair is way too long, I wrote to Shelly in Davis and asked her to make a hair appointment with Robbie for me. However, Robbie won't be working until the 22nd, so that lets that idea out. So I decided to go for the full Australian experience.

Peggy made an appointment for me at her hair dresser's, and I walked down to get my hair cut.

Super Cuts, this is not.

First of all, I was the only customer. I had Rachel (the woman who cut my hair) and Scott (who washed it) all to myself. Scott greeted me with a menu of complimentary drinks and when I asked for coffee, he asked if "percolated was OK." Hey...OK for me!

Then Scott washed my hair, a long, luxurious wash, with scalp massage included that was worth the price of the treatment itself.

Next Rachel took over and took a lot of time examining, talking, cutting, shaping, tapering, and blow drying. When it was over, I looked a lot better, felt a lot lighter, and wonder if I can keep this looking at least somewhat decent until time to pose for wedding photos. (And it didn't even cost a fortune either.)

It's been a rather mundane day, but we got a lot accomplished, and I finally know that Australia is not behind the rest of the world in modern supermarkets. I am officially impressed.

Monday, October 13, 2003

Well, There Ya Go

Caversham Park may well be my favorite place in the Perth area.

Today the school kids are back in school, the weather report predicted showers, "clearing" by mid-morning, and warm temps. We figured it would be the perfect day to return to Caversham and complete our tour of the park.

It's not a large park, but we ran out of batteries for the cameras the last time we were there and rather than go on with no cameras, we had enjoyed our time with the birds and the kangaroos that we decided it warranted a second trip. Time is growing short, and we weren't sure if we would have time to fit it in, but today seemed perfect.

You may recall that we got to Caversham because we went looking for camels to ride. We never found the camels, but we found this marvelous wonderland of animals to admire, photograph, and pet.

My one fear was that the day wouldn't go well. Someone told me once that there is a Chinese proverb which says that you can't put your toe in the same place in the river twice. If we returned to Caversham, would it hold the same magic? I hated to think of going back to that already special place and coming home sorry that we had gone.

But we went anyway. The skies weren't looking like they would clear any time soon, but we figured that it would probably keep away mothers with small children and that we'd have a chance to have the park to ourselves again.

This time I'd brought the better camera. Last time, expecting to be sitting on a camel, I left the Olympus at home and just brought the Casio, which fits in my pocket. The Casio, while a good snapshot camera, had been a bit of a disappointment last time and I was hoping for better results with the Olympus.

We started off, again, at the bird enclosure and when we got home and I looked at the photos, I was thrilled. The results were significantly better than with my other camera, and exceeded what I thought I was getting.

From the birds, we passed a koala enclosure. Several animals were there, but only one was awake, but she had a teeny baby hiding behind her who finally, after we'd waited a long time, came round to her pouch and began to nurse, so we could get some photos.

While we waited for the koala, a couple of groups of people passed by. I kind of felt sorry for them that they were doing the park so rapidly. The real magic of this place is taking your time, doing it slowly, going at the animals' pace and just watching to see what they do. You can easily see Caversham, which is a relatively small place, in an hour, if you just rush from enclosure to encosure. We were there 3-1/2 hrs and I would like to go back again. Maybe on another trip.

After the koalas, it was the roos again. The roos had occupied us for fully an hour last time; would we find the same fun again? There had been rain off and on throughout the morning and so all the moms were gathered together in the back, many of them lying down. We picked up pocketsful of roo food on our way back there and were immediately greeted by lots of eager kangaroos, all waiting for a snack. Though they were very gentle, they were as insistent as goats in a petting zoo. Fun, though, to have a kangaroo almost nose to nose with you as it begs for food!

We spent a long time there taking pictures and movies. Peggy's commentary usually includes several uses of the expression "there ya go...," hence the titleof this entry. At one point I glanced off to the back of the pen and saw a sign on the next enclosure down: "Camel Rides." We finaly found our camels. We had gone looking for camels a few weeks ago and instead found Caversham. Today we went to Caversham and found camels. Naturally we had to go see about a ride.

The camel rides are designed for little kids, so what were these two old broads doing on a camel ride. My camera was getting in the way of trying to figure out how to mount the damn thing, so I never did get any pictures, but Peggy kept hers and managed to suitably embarrass me, not only with still photos, but with movies of my attempts to get on the animal and stay on as it lurched to its feet.

I was upset that I had no camera when Peggy got on, but we started out, feeling rather foolish, this guy walking ahead of us, holding one camel lead in each he were leading a couple of 5 year olds on this walk. It began to rain a bit and he asked us if we wanted to go back, but brave, hardy souls that we are, we said no, we'd continue on.

Then the skies opened up and it rained buckets. We were, unfortunately, at about the halfway point, so there was no way to cut the ride short. We were absolutely drenched, the camels were unhappy (I had visions of winding up upside down under the beast, as the saddle slipped off--what a great shot that would have made for Peggy!). The poor guy leading them was one soggy wet, unhappy bloke.

When we got off, all three of us (and the two camels) were dripping wet, and the children waiting in line for their turn were suitably entertained...also, the rain stopped and the sky turned blue about that time.

After we had dried out and stopped laughing, we continued on. It was getting late and we were hungry and the cafe was off in the distance.

"We don't need to go down that way," Peggy said, but I had spied a sign that said "koalas," so I said that I thought we would get to go in a koala enclosure. "Nope," she said, but I continued walking.

We came across a guy putting eucalyptus leaves in a locked enclosure with a few koalas in it and started to take pictures. "If you go down to that end enclosure," he said, "you can go in and pet a koala." Hooray--just what I hoped!

We went into the enclosure and there were 9 koalas, most of whom were doing what koalas do best: sleep. But we were able to stay as long as we liked, take lots and lots of photos, and yes, even pet a koala. Must be time to leave: I've now done it all in Australia, save for learning how to blow a didgeridoo, which I doubt I even want to try.

Sunday, October 12, 2003


You see them everywhere, especially around Davis. All those miniature golf places. There is Scandia which is south of us--big sleeping beauty type castle, all sorts of strange creatures to hit a ball into or around. There is another one near where Ned works, which is dominated by a huge windmill. At Lake Tahoe there is a dinosaur world, where you hit balls into prehistoric beings. I don't even want to think about the variations in So. California.

Miniature golf is not my sport.

Well, sport is not my sport. I have never been coordinated enough to play any organized sport. Other than biking, I've never even been passable at anything, but get me on a miniature golf course and you have good fodder for a good slapstick comedy.

I can remember taking the kids...and later, foreign students...miniature golfing. Everyone had a great time, except me. They were all laughing at how totally uncoordinated I was, how I exceeded the maximum for every hole, and I was playing along, feeling like I wanted to crawl into one of the holes myself.

So I have been less than chomping at the bit ever since Janne and Chris suggested that we go out some moring, have a nice breakfast and then do "putt-putt golf." But this is a trip about not saying "no" (not even to the sardine, olive and ricotta sandwich this afternoon), and so I said that yes, I would love to go miniature golfing.

If nothing else, I figured it would give the girls a laugh and make great fodder for a journal entry.

We went to Botanic Golf Gardens, which is a far cry from the plastic-and-fantasy miniature golf places that I'm accustomed to.

The setting is lovely, full of beautiful flowers, birds, ponds, waterfalls, and putting greens. Before we went out to play, we had a lovely brunch on the terrace (just before a party of 50 arrived for a combination breakfast/christening).

Instead of garish plastic obstacles, each of the holes here is set off by brick or rock, with obstacles being strategically placed bars or tunnels, but always with the green setting and flowers everywhere.

We paid our fees, got our clubs and proceeded to the first tee. Mercifully, we were the second group to go round, and we pretty much had each tee to ourselves, without feeling other players were breathing down our necks.

They told me to go first, and I took a deep breath and put my ball down. This was probably going to be very embarrassing, but I was going to have fun. I was sure all these women were much more coordinated than I. But Peggy has been making fun of me for five weeks, so why deny her the chance today?

I took my stance and hit the ball--looking ahead, like golfers do, knowing full well that I didn't have a clue what the hell I was doing and couldn't aim to save my soul. Well, the first ball I hit didn't go flying out of the green, so it wasn't that bad. It was a par 2 hole and it took me 4 hits to get it in the hole. Coulda been worse. Chris followed me and took 3 shots. Janne followed her and took three shots. Maybe this wouldn't be so bad. Peggy stepped up. OK...I was in for it now. But no, it took her 4 shots as well. I was very encouraged. (She must have made quite a sight too; even the kookaburra laughed!)

Janne went first on the second hole and did the par 2 in 2 shots. Chris followed and took 4 shots. Hmmm...maybe they weren't better than me after all. I went next. THREE! I had beaten Chris. Then Peggy took her turn. First she had to clean off the green because, neatik that she is, it bothered her to be putting on a messy green. She also felt that cleaning debris off the green would improve her game. Five It took her five tries to sink the ball.

I was not very sympathetic. In fact, one may say that I gloated a bit.

By now I was feeling more confident that I wouldn't totally embarrass myself. On the third hole, Janne took 3 shots for the par 2. Chris made par. Peggy and I each took 3.

Then came the fourth hole. Another par 2. The scores? 2 for Janne, 2 for Chris. 3 for Peggy and....a hole in one for me!!!

I was now downright cocky. I held my own throughout the game. On the 6th hole, a par 3, Janne hit par, and Chris took 4, Peggy hit 5 and I did it in 2, one under par.

We had a wonderful time completing the 18 holes, and we laughed a lot. It was good that none of us took it seriously.

Peggy continued to clean the greens each time but somehow it didn't seem to help her game anyway.

On the 16th hole, Janne got her own hole in one. (Peggy took 7 hits on that hole, as did Chris; I got it in 4).

By the time we got to the last two holes, we were in plain sight of the people eating at the cafe, who enjoyed our antics. Peggy got out her Panasonic camera to take movies of all four of us hitting on the last hole (7 for Janne, 5 for Peggy, 4 for Chris and me on this par 2 hole!).

When it was over, Janne, as the big winner, got to buy us all coffee and muffins as we sat on the terrace looking at our movies and adding up the scores.

On the whole I didn't do too damn bad and I had an absolute ball. Terrific way to spend the morning. And what's even better, Peggy got all the greens clean and neat for the players to follow.

The afternoon was spent quietly, napping, eating, washing, and going over photos on the computer. We realize that the time is growing short, that we have a buttload of photos that have to be consolidated so I can take my own copies home so I can make slide shows ('cause we know it will be a cold day in hell before Peggy gets around to making any!).

Really a very nice day. Better than I might have expected, given that I had virtually no sleep at all last night, due first to the next door neighbors having a very loud gathering, and then just to general insomnia that had me up chatting with Steve on Instant Messaging at 2 a.m., and reading at 3 a.m. Peggy had a hard time sleeping too and we got the dogs out for a walk before 6 a.m. this morning.

ADDENDUM: As I was posting this, Chris and Janne came round to let us know that Chris had just won a $4,000 diamond on a radio contest. She was beaming--she's been entering contests forever and it finally paid off. We're going out for a "last supper" on Friday, before I leave, to celebrate.