We have been away for a year now and are enjoying Australia very much. Landy has perked up massively with her fixed gears and is ready for anything.
We have experienced incredible Australian hospitality and distant cousins we have met have opened their homes to us and have fed us in return for travellers tales!
In many ways this is a golden land. We love the way that both Brisbane and Sydney (so far) have so many wild protected woods dipping into the built up areas and that the roads wind up and down many hilly slopes and their proximity to the sea and any number of amazing golden sandy beaches and the sunny weather.
Sydney itself was beautiful (but unexpectedly cloudy) and we took a quick peak at the harbour, crossed the bridge and took a boat trip across the harbour to Manly on a wet and windy day, passing the iconic Opera House.
The harbour was full of sailing boats whizzing along, some at a perilous angle with crew perched on the edge to help keep the keel under water as the high winds swept them along.
We will return to Sydney, thanks to hospitality from Rod, Kirsty and family. And we have a busy schedule with more cousins.
We had been hoping to meet up with our niece Klara and Will, her intended, for a bracing Sunday walk.
However, at the appointed hour, the heavens opened and there was nothing for it but to retire for yet another lunch in a waterfront location, admire the engagement ring and talk about wedding plans back in the UK in the summer.
In Australia, out of town, the landscapes are wild and amazing. They have 379 species of mammals and 159 marsupials, 76 bats and 69 rodents, not to mention many many snakes! Every now and then amazing colourful birds congregate that I have only previously glimpsed in zoos.
You do see Kangaroos, Guanas, Pythons, Wombats and other mammals that you have never heard of. These kangaroos were by the roadside in Cootamundra.
Sadly we have also seen quite a bit of road kill in spite of many warning signs.
Most Australians seem to live comfortably and average salaries are higher than at home. Although they have their problems too at the margins. However, Australians agonise over their relations with their indigenous population, worry endlessly about droughts and floods, and politicians squabble noisily over any number of issues, but mainly immigration and refugees. Political life is strained and we were surprised to see a video of fisticuffs between a political advisor and senator in the Australian Parliament House.
Only this week, horrifically, a lone white Australian right wing extremist, stormed two mosques in Christchurch, in neighbouring New Zealand where 50 men, women and children were shot dead in the space of half an hour. (In the same week in the UK too, some guy attacked three mosques breaking all the windows).
We know from the unprovoked attack on MP Jo Cox, in the UK, that bitter loners are thrown up from time to time. It does mean that politicians do have to think about the political tone set when legitimate debate occurs on tricky subjects.
Christchurch shooting: Australia's moment of hate speech reckoning https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-australia-47620391
My many Australian first Cousins and their children have been equally welcoming and we are having a very relaxed landing in Australia and the lack of camping gaz in our car has not been a problem as we are being fattened up nicely before we are dispatched back to Blighty.
And we have been here long enough to observe that the Australians we have met do get on with things. Our gears were fixed in no time, with no nonsense in Brisbane. Less chat and they fix it! (We had been to about twenty garages in Asia with this problem).
Overhanging branches at Ian and Barbs house in Nowra were lopped in an instant to allow Landy to glide up to the front door.
Ian’s retirement here is being spent building a new rental property from scratch, with the help of one skilled labourer with a penchant for brick laying.
Offers to fix our roof leak were made before we reached their front door and a new set of wooden washers have been carved out in ‘Pa’s shed’ on his workbench to resecure our sand tracks that had worked loose.
They also found time to take us up precipitous Kangaroo Valley Road to glimpse amazing views over their landscapes on the top of the world.
Also to show us the white golden sandy beaches to be found all along the New South Wales coastline - although theirs are obviously whiter and lovlier than most (even when windy and cloudy).
We left Nowra in the direction of Cootamundra where we were due to see more cousins. Off the beaten track we passed through amazing countryside and villages with oodles of old world charm.
We stopped at Exeter and parked the car next to a croquet club in full swing.
We had coffee in the general store which was completely buzzing with shoppers and many partaking of coffee and cake.
The outside walls were full of tiny PO boxes. This place was the centre of the village and was alive with customers. The Archers Ambridge store could definitely take a leaf out of their book.
On arrival in Cootamundra via a nice lunch the tiny village of Jugiong, we mentioned to our new hosts, (Sue and Richard) that a couple of electrical faults in the car were still on the list. No sooner said than done, but the car was dropped off into a car electrician and three blokes immediately started peering at the photovoltaic panels, the converter and the battery set up, armed with multi-meters at the ready.
Within an hour the problem had been identified, (one PV panel did not work and the other was adversly affected), a solution had been found and we knew we were going to be seriously out of pocket once again!
The next day everything, panels, pumps and lights were fixed cheerfully and Cousins Sue and Richard sent us on our way to visit Jemma in Canberra.