2002-01 (JANUARY, 2002)

Jennifer & Eric Come Out To Play - Sydney, Australia

This week we had the all-too-brief pleasure of having Jennifer & Eric come to stay with us. We only had them for a night and a day as they were due to meet up with the rest of the family for the rest of their stay in Sydney. We did a trip out to Manly beach for the day then went out for dinner in town.

Lou & Richard Come Out To Play - Australia

Lou & Richard began their three-and-a-half week trip to Australia in Sydney. We had kept our hire car from our drive around New South Wales for an extra few days and were thus able to drag the guys around all the far flung spots that we had been unable to visit in our normally car-less state. Hence we subjected them to a drive up to Palm Beach one day and down to Kangaroo Valley the next. Richard was most upset that there were no kangaroos in Kangaroo Valley. They departed us mid-week to begin their visit to the south-east coast.

A few days later Andy & I boarded a flight to Melbourne to meet up with Lou & Richard down south. We arrived in the early morning, met the guys and proceeded to collect our hire car. Richard upgraded our vehicle to a monstrous Torago people carrier, which was pure luxury for four people. We began our road trip with a cruise down the Great Ocean Road. The weather started out fine but got more hazy and windy the further south we drove. We stopped in to see all the Great Ocean Road sights along the way (Twelve Apostles, etc.). We stopped for lunch at Apollo Bay. We trundled south and west for the rest of the day and ended up in Port Campbell for the night. Lou was not feeling very well (the roads were a bit windy) so she stayed back in the B&B whilst the rest of us went out for dinner at a lovely restaurant in the township. We walked home under the stars and spotted satellites.

The next day the weather took a turn for the worse and it became positively cold and grey. We continued along the last stretch of the Great Ocean Road and paid a visit to the Tower Hill Game Reserve. The drive around the reserve is a 6km circuit. On our first pass we saw virtually no wildlife (except a couple of Emus), which was a bit disappointing. Just as we were about to exit, however, another driver told us that he had seen a Koala back at the entrance to the park. We decided to loop back around, and this time there were animals everywhere! Emus, koalas, kangaroos, long necked turtle and lots of birds had obviously come back from their lunch break and were now romping through the park. Very odd. We broke for lunch at Port Fairy (originally called Belfast?!), a very pleasant wee town. That afternoon we crossed the border into South Australia. SA has an unusual approach to road signs - it doesn't have any. This made visits like our detour to find the famous Blue Lake in Mount Gambier extremely challenging. We spent the night in a fabulous beach-front B&B in Robe. We drank wine on the beach while watching the sun set, ate our dinner at local pub, and then returned to drink lots more wine (well, the boys did, anyway).

Day 3 of our road trip involved a long days drive up the Limestone Coast, across the Murray River (by car ferry), past the sand bars and salt pans of Coorong National Park and eventually across the Fleurieu Peninsula. We arrived into McLaren Vale for the evening, again watched the sun set with a bottle of wine and the headed off into town for dinner and lots more local wine.

The next morning we were up early and off to Adelaide to drop off our car before joining a wine tour back to McLaren Vale. We entered our first vineyard at 10:30 in the morning and then proceeded to work our way through 12 wineries (breaking the tour guide's personal record - no great surprise, what with Andy and Lou on board). We also got to see an olive farm and a sweet factory. The wineries we visited included: d'Arenburg (too early in the morning for the palette I think, they all seemed very bitter); Maxwell (famous for its mead); Hugh Hamilton (Andy's favourite); Shatterbrook (one of Paul's recommendations - good new Sauvignon Blanc); Wirra Wirra (Lou and Richard's favourite - desert wine to die for); Wirilda (where we had lunch - meze with sparkling Shiraz - yum!); Hugo (my favourite); Middlebrook (not great wine - beside the sweet factory); Clarendon (awful wine and a tacky establishment); and Beresford (too late on in the day to care, but the Highwood Sauvignon Blanc was pretty damn good for an Oz white). Back in Adelaide we got dropped off down at Glenelg (Adelaide's waterfront) and found a super spot beside the beach for curry and a refreshing Kingfisher beer! I invented a form of fashion headwear out of a napkin to keep the setting sun off - keep an eye out for it in shops soon.

We arose surprising early for the morning-after-the-day-before. We dropped off the car at the airport and flew to Uluru (Ayer's Rock), via Alice Springs.We hid from the heat of the day by lounging beside the hotel pool. That evening we went out into the desert for dinner. We watched the sun set over the Olgas whilst sipping champagne and then had a BBQ under the stars. After dinner we had a young astronomer give us a super talk about the stars and then used her telescopes to view the moons of Jupiter and the rings of Saturn. We got back to the hotel at midnight. Four hours later we were up again and off to see the sunrise over Uluru. This was a bit less spectacular than expected, but the walk around the base of the rock made up for it. At midday Andy and I left our travelling buddies to continue their Australia tour alone, whilst we headed back to Sydney. Unfortunately (due to some cock up with our booking) we had been issued ticket on a nonexistent flight, so instead of a two hour flight directly to Sydney we ended up on a ten hour extravaganza via Cairns and Brisbane. Booger.

A week later, when the wanderers had returned from their visit to the north-east coast, we held a mini ABAST reunion at Dave & Jenny's house. The next evening we went to see Figaro at the Sydney Opera House. Even Richard thought it was good! The final chapter in Lou & Richard's visit was dinner at Astral, the restaurant on top of the Sydney Casino. We watched Australia Day fireworks from the balcony and then sat down to eat a very average meal. Louise got food poisoning that night - not the best way to begin a ten hour flight to Hong Kong the next day! We were sorry to see them go.