Australia Photos

We have posted photos of Australia before and this trip was strictly a “visit the kids” trip so the photos are mostly of family, therefore I have not posted them into the blog. We do have a series of photos of two wallabies sparring that was quite humorous to watch and I thought I would share them.

wallabies sparring australia

wallabies sparring australia

wallabies sparring australia

wallabies sparring australia

And a little more friendly and cuddly.

koala australia

koala australia

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Fiji and Solomon Islands Photos are Posted!

Surprise! I have finally loaded photos of Fiji and Solomon Islands into the blog.

Fiji

To view photos, hover over “Photos”, in the main menu bar, until the drop down menu appears. Click on “Fiji 2018” and then “Solomon Islands” in the drop down menu. Wait until the photos load. Click on the first photo and a “slide show” view will appear. Scroll through the photos using the arrow on the right. Click on the “x” in the upper right hand corner to exit out of the slide show.

I cannot seem to put descriptions on each photo, so if you have questions about any of the photos, please send me a note.

Enjoy!

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Debbie has been wanting and planning to swim across lake Okanagan for 5 years. Today the plan is implemented. 2.1KM from the old ferry dock on the west side of lake to the main park in downtown Kelowna. 1300 people swim this year. It is a well run event. Similar to a fun run. It is a personal challenge to do it. Looking across the Okanagan, it seems doable but not one of those things you might just jump in the water and do it. Then again this swim is not the shortest route from across. The start is somewhat north of the big bridge and the finish is adjacent to it so we end up swimming at a diagonal.

Swim Across the Lake in Kelowna

I am seeded in a earlier wave than Debbie and B and swim pretty much alone for the entire distance. Had never swum in a wet suit before and it is fast. I thought I did pretty well. I sat next to an Across the Lake Swim veteran on the bus to the start and he said he believed the wet suit measured to a 20% advantage. In fact I am 20% faster than I am in the pool without a suit. It is also a constant swim and I am terribly slow on the turns in a pool so that also works to my advantage. I end up in the to 1/4 of the entire field and the top 1/3 of the 60 to 69 male group. So that age thing I was talking about in the last post could be lagging in the swimming department. Don’t know if we will be able to make next year’s event but if we do I already have some improvement in the strategies I will apply. The siting markers suggested by the organizers I think sent everyone on a bit of an arc and I believe I could set a better course with a slight adjustment to the first marker. We also did not have to arrive at 6am. We did a lot of standing around. We planned carefully the night before and all went as planned. We could sleep a extra 1/2 hour or so as long as there are no glitches.

Debbie here. B and I start our swim 2 waves after Murray. B is nervous but we have a plan to swim side by side so we can see one another and I am close, just in case. The start is a water start. We jump off the dock into rather shallow water and swim slowly to the starting buoys. We hang in the water for about a minute before the count down and we are off.

Our plan is to start off really slowly to make sure our breathing stays under control, which we accomplish. I get into a rhythm and just swim and sight on the mountain across the lake and every time I breathe to the left, check for B. We maintain this until about 2/3 across the lake where it gets choppy. In the choppiness we drift apart more but I keep tabs on my friend.

The choppy water makes sighting much harder. We are close enough now to sight on the finish arch but with the chop, sometimes it is obscured by water as I look up. We make a course direction change to aim more to the arch and the last couple of hundred meters are hurting.

Swim Across the Lake in Kelowna

Once we are touching the sand with our fingers, we stand up and try to run to the timing mat. B and I manage to get the exact same time. It was a great swim, B did wonderfully and overcame her nerves, and I would do it again. I have wanted to do this swim for years and am glad I finally did it, and on my birthday too!

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Getting Old? Smelling the Roses

The roses are smelling stronger. We keep seeing smaller and less significant things. Flowers on the side of the trail. Clouds that look like a zeppelin or a dog chasing a rabbit or something.

Little Fort Ferry

On the way to Vernon and the swim across Okanagan Lake in Kelowna I notice a very small sign on the side of the highway stating there is a provincial ferry that crosses the Thompson River at Little Fort. Debbie has a quick look at our PAPER map and notices there is a road on the other side of the river that would meet up with the highway again 30 or so kilometers on in Barriere. We discuss and quickly decide to stop at the ferry and ask about the road. The young lady ferry operator tells me it is gravel and would take maybe 45 minutes. We throw caution to the wind and choose the gravel road. I think it is the right choice. The scent of rose is super strong.

Dunn Lake

Dunn Lake

The road is almost gravel. It was maybe graded last November so the going is slow which allows for a bit more sight seeing, at least for the passenger. We skirt a wonderful alpine lake, Dunn Lake, for about 1/2 an hour. Shortly there after we are back in the Thompson River valley and passing backcountry farms. We are soon in Barriere and joining in the crowds of cars that had started their trip south since we left the highway. We had passed 2 vehicles the entire time on the gravel trail and now we have to join the rat race once more.

Dunn Lake

Dunn Lake

I remember when I was in my late teens and twenties doing stuff like that. See a pending adventure and head off without much planning to explore what might await us. Then conservative, always in a rush, middle age crept in and we would chose a well planned, efficient route to what ever we were doing. I turned 65 the other day and I think that means I am officially old. Funny how things seem to be reverting back to a younger time. If it continues I will soon be spending late nights watching live music into the wee hours of the morning.

Dunn Lake

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Coyote Pups, Pelicans and Two 50 km Rides

Yesterday, after our walk in Dinosaur Provincial Park, we drove into Brooks to buy gas. On the way I spied three puppies in a field. Mur braked, turned the SUV around and we had a closer look. They were coyote pups with no mom around. Cute fellas. Two didn’t like us so close so they headed into some bushes near a barbed wire fence, but the last one was more interested in eating something off the ground. He eventually noticed his litter mates gone and us watching him, so he also trotted into the bushes. What a treat!

Coyote Pup

Just outside of Brooks we saw our first solar field. Row upon row of solar panels. Basking in the sun working on their tan.

Today we both want to ride 50 km. We are traveling home so the plan is for Murray to ride from the campground, turn north on Hwy 876 and go until he reaches 50 km. After he leaves, I hang around for about 45 minutes, then hop in the SUV and chase him down. It took awhile as the wind was cooperating and blowing from the south-east, so was pushing him along. I then leapfrogged with him until he rode just over 50 km.

Then it was my turn. I take off as soon as Murray catches his breath. The wind is definitely a help. Pushing a large gear on those sections that are slightly downhill and with the wind. WHEEEEE! I say Hello to all the horses and cows I see in fields. I spot one little calf as I pass and I realize he is on my side of the barbed wire fence and his Mom is on the proper side of the fence. He did not look happy, and I am sure his Mom was not happy either. Poor guy.

Murray leap frogs me, but keeps a little closer to me as per my request. After one of the last leaps, he goes to start the SUV and it doesn’t start. OH-OH. Now what does he do! He flags down a friendly motorist driving a truck and pulling a trailer, explains that the starter might be shot and could they drive ahead and find me and ask me to turn around and ride back. The fellow suggests that they try boosting our vehicle’s battery first. BRAVO! That worked! So off they both go to find me. Meanwhile, I am approaching km 42 and I know Murray was supposed to meet me at km 40. Where is he? He zooms by, parks and as I pull up to him, the friendly motorist drives by and honks Good Bye. Dodged that one! We intersect Hwy 36, a much busier road at km 46.5 so I pull the plug on my ride. Close enough to 50 for me. A good ride today.

Pelicans Fishing

On our drive back we decide to drive through Hanna, where I lived for a period in the early 1980’s. Just entering the town, we spy a flock of white birds swimming in formation on a large pond. We go investigate and realize they are pelicans swimming in a U shape. The lead birds then paddle inwards to make an O and then all the birds dip their beaks and heads, in unison, into the water to fish. It looks like an exquisite ballet. Another great treat!

Pelicans Fishing

A great few days camping, enjoying the hot weather, spying critters we don’t normally see, checking out the dinosaurs and riding.

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Bugs

Campground cleared out today. By the time we got out of the tent at 7am 1/2 of last nights guests had packed and left. By noon we were the only ones in our end. Seems like Wednesday is the crossover day because tomorrow people will come so they don’t miss out on a spot for the weekend.

Big day for us. We hike all the trails this place has to offer before noon. It is possible to take a car and drive from trailhead to trailhead but we tough it out on foot. The temp is hot and we are in a canyon but it is still an OK walk, maybe 6 km in total. I’m glad it isn’t any farther because I am tagged by the time we get back to camp.

Each trail has it own theme. The topic of the first one we walk is the ecosystem of the river valley. How the predominant tree, the cottonwood, (I think they are poplar trees) takes root and lives on the flood plains near the river. The info boards tell how the vegetation changes the father from the river one gets and explains ‘the badlands’ that are prevalent before the land rises up and levels off into endless prairie.

The signs posted along the second trail tell stories of the expeditions that spent copious amounts of time traversing the Red Deer river valley in search of dinosaur bones. They seemed to be quite successful in their quest.

The final trail is into the badlands. A short trip around and few hummocks and hoo doos. Before we started I thought this would be the most interesting of the three but found it the least informative.

Hot, sweaty, and tired we returned to camp.

An addendum to yesterdays hypothesis’ regarding the comparison between the ocean and the forest. Bugs are a sequel to plankton. They float around in great numbers in aimless patterns, are attracted to light and are consumed by birds, similarly fish live off plankton. The numerous birds here are happy because there are a lot of trees to roost in and there are tons of bugs to live off.

When we travel to far flung places we are always warned of the how many bugs there are in the tropics. How malaria is present 12 months of the year and 24/7. When we arrive there are a few bugs and different bugs, like cockroaches, and we do get a few mosquito bites but there are never as many bugs as we have here in our temperate climate where the winters get cold enough no self respecting bug would survive but come spring and summer you can’t sit in the outdoors without being overwhelmed by persistent flies, or ear buzzing mosquitos. I am sitting right now cursing the little black things that fly right into my eyes. Why eyes???? After they drown and I try to rub them out they break into a hundred bits and it takes two days to get all the parts out.

It is still only mid June but this place sure is peaceful. Except for the bugs I think it is an excellent place to camp. We have done just about all there is to do here so would not come back for the ‘dinosaur experience’ but to spend a couple of chill days it would suit quite well.

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Local Camping Trip

When we can avoid Hwy 2 to get to where we want to go, we do. There are several roads that go south to Dinosaur Provincial Park, our destination for a few days. We have traversed Hwy 21 quite a few times going and coming from Lethbridge so to go to Dinosaur Park we thought Hwy 56 would be something different. As we go south there are recognizable land marks and we both realize we had been this way before. I always remember how straight it is and I draw the driving card for the straight part. There are a couple of bends just south of Stettler then it is dead arrow straight except for one “s” bend 60 km south all the way to Drumheller. 80 km of hwy with no movement of the steering wheel. I remember taking a group of Nova Scotians down this road and they could not believe it. At home, they told us, there is not a straight stretch of more than a kilometre.

Don’t expect to see much wildlife on a daytime trip across the prairies but yesterday we saw 5 deer. They didn’t seem to be in much of a rush to get anywhere. Guess it is not hunting season and humans do not institute much of a threat. They were quite pretty animals. Looked to be eating well. Their fur was shiny and a beautiful tawny colour. Always nice to see animals.

As far south as we were going and we have to head east for 70 or 80 kms. A short stint of 15 kms on Hwy 1 and then onto secondary hwys again. The fields are just turning green and the landscape rolls and dips as we go. Then, in the middle of the field are numerous boxes. Maybe 4 ft high, 10 ft long and 3 ft deep. They are all lined in rows and evenly spaced across the field. Then another field the same, and another, and another. Then a field with some kind of plastic dome structure 6ft in diameter and 5 ft high. All in a line and evenly spaced. We wondered what they were. Speculating UFO installations, deer shelters and really had no idea. I thought we should stop at one of the farm houses and ask. Further down the highway we blew by a shelter with a sign on it that said “Information”. It took a few seconds at 100 km/hr to process but I finally did and since the hwy was not busy I slammed on the brakes, put her into reverse and backed up to the pull off. Seems the folks around here are seriously into Alfalfa Cutter Bees and all those shelters are man made hives. I guess they can use the left over alfalfa for horse feed or beer making or whatever alfalfa is used for.

Arrived at the campground after the office closed last night. There is a self registration kiosk and we knew how to use that but there is a cryptic message about how to find a site and that it may be reserved and there is no way to know and show up at the office at 9am to find out if you have to move. We did. I think it was the only site that was reserved last night that the reservees had not be installed yet we managed to choose it. So this morning we move. Not hard, our tent is self supporting so the move is easy but we get quite a bit of sun mid day, the wind tempers the heat but the sun is still intense.

Moving delayed our ride. We are in Southern Alberta and the wind blows strong. The earlier in the day one can ride the better. 10am start and the flags are drooping. A 1/2 hour in and the wind is pushing us along at a real good clip. A few corners we alternate with the wind and agin her. It really wasn’t that hard to ride into but we sure road fast with the wind. With a little luck our next ride on the trip home will be all down wind.

Here we sit in the shade with poplar snow falling all around us. We note several other types of trees. And the birds, there are a plethora of them and many different types. We have often wondered how we can be so enamoured with the undersea world and there should be just a much to see and observe in the world we inhabit. The trees in some ways mirror the coral and the birds the fish. There are of course a few differences, we can hear the sounds birds make and if fish make noise it is inaudible to us. There are also some similarities. Birds use the fluid of the air to travel and fish use the water. The coloration of fish is what the rainbow has to offer, although some birds can be boring, the sequel to the big silver fish, there are many attractive and colourful varieties as well. Guess I have just gained a slightly better appreciation of ‘birding’, something I have never really understood. Maybe some day soon I will get train-spotting or airplane-spotting two more things that have to be explained to me.

Quiet place this Dinosaur Provincial Park. We have been to many campgrounds with parties at night and getto blasters all day but here we can hear the water in the creek, the birds talking to each other from tree to tree and the wind as it blows through. I think I can remember this type of camping when we were kids raising hell and were probably the noisiest thing in the campground. It is peaceful and it makes one want to do this again.

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Honolulu

The TSA decided to flex its muscles last night and pissed off a plane load of people. All in the name of keeping the USA safe of course. One can’t complain about such actions or we will get ourselves in some sort of hot water and even if innocent will be delayed indefinitely or maybe permanently. Having done the unusual for us and checked bags, we arrive at 1.30am and begin standing around the carousel with a crowd to wait for the bags to appear out of the little holes. We wait, and wait, and wait. One of the attendants with a radio approaches the group and announces the TSA has chosen to randomly check our plane’s bags and it should be shortly that the bags appear. A complete hour after we arrive, the bags start to appear, we’re talking 2:30 am. We are lucky our bags pop up in the first 10 so we can get out reasonably fast in comparison but I am still quite ticked. I will think twice about checking bags next time through the US.

Another day in Honolulu. And this time it is the Memorial Day weekend and the place embodies all that I abhor in a place to travel to. It is not even maxed out on vacationers and the place is way too crowded. We went to have breakfast yesterday and had to bypass the first two establishments we tried because there was a line up too long to wait in. We ended up ordering food at a McD’s computer because there was another line at the tills. The car traffic does not seem to be too bad but we do not have a car to test it out. The foot traffic on the promenade is bad, we have to weave our way in and out of slow folks and try to keep to the edge of the walk so the faster ones can get by. The beach is packed, you actually have to look for a spot to set down a towel. This beach is huge stretching for miles and in spots twenty yards deep. It is relatively expensive, caused by supply and demand of course. They will tell you it is because it is an island, which is partly true, it is an island and they have you captive so they can charge what they want, not the reason they imply that they have to import everything because they seem to get most of the stuff from one island or another. The character of the place is that of any large NA city excepting it does have very nice ocean front exposure. We are only here as stopover in our travels and it is ok for that. Everyone has different reason and wants for places to vacation but it is not some place I would come for my travels.

Today I see a better side of Honolulu. We cross the literal bridge and wander along the ‘locals’ beach. I am quite sure we are the only tourists in among thousands, well maybe a thousand Honoluluites, Honoluluians, maybe?. It’s Memorial Day. On this day every year there is tradition to do with lanterns. The people gather at this beach and build lanterns, they adorn the lanterns with the names of people that have died. Ones they miss I presume. At 6pm these lanterns are lit and sailed out into the ocean. Not sure of the entire ceremony but it has something to do with very large outrigger canoes paddling in formation as they are out practicing early in the afternoon while we watch. There is also a huge temporary stage set for the official proceedings of the evening. Hundreds of folding chairs are set and ready for the folks with the proper credentials and at noon when we walk by people have already staked out their viewing tarp just outside the fenced area.

This is real nice beach. It is long and wide and sandy. The water is calm, protected by a reef quite far from shore. It looks good for a distance swim, I think if one swam the whole length and return it would be at least 4 km.

When the locals show up for a day at the beach they come prepared. With 10′ X 10′ shade tents, beach chairs and mats, tables for a days worth of food, bbq’s, coolers and any other thing we might need for a week long car camping trip. There are hundreds of these encampments lining the edge of the beach and onto the grassy section on the other side of the promenade. Very few people have just a towel and a bottle of sunscreen like we might have when we go on our beach outing.

If we are passing through Honolulu again this is the beach I will head to. I think it would be our private playground on a regular weekday. Might have to share on a weekend thought. Maybe we would get feed by some local family feeling sorry for the unprepared tourists.

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Missed Items from the Solomons

As we sat on board the Dash 8 domestic flight from Munda back to Honiara I noted that all the signage on board was in two different languages. English and Greek. Must mean Solomon Airlines has purchase a used plane from Olympia Air. This is a little disconcerting as Greek things in general which would include the national Greek airlines is not know to be well maintained. So a used aircraft from them would probably not be in the greatest of shape. That coupled with the fact that an airlines from a country such as the Solomon Islands probably does not have the highest standards when it comes to maintains makes for a bit of angst when heading into the sky over open ocean.

The next thing is if I don’t have fish for dinner for the next year it will be too soon. We have eaten fish at least every second meal. I am OK with fish but not as a steady diet. We have often had choices, a vegetarian dish or lamb would be included but fish would the the best alternate. By the last week I was saying to Debbie NO MORE FISH and it would be the only thing on the menu I would eat. A hamburger will be high on the list of first dinners when we arrive home. So, just 2 hours after I wrote this Debbie informs me we are having sushi for dinner tomorrow. Fish again.

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Last Thoughts

Just wanted to bring up how much Debbie has changed over the years. So we sit down at a table to order dinner. Just as we sit Debbie starts brushing the top of her back as if a fly is buzzing around and tickling her. A second later a small gecko runs across her shoulder and down her arm and stops just below the elbow. She just sits and stares at it. Not freaking out at all. She didn’t want to hurt is so she just looked on. I reached over and brushed it away. It landed on the floor and scampered over to the wall and safety.

This is our 5th day at the Rekona Flourish and we have come to quite like it. I would rate this as a locals hotel but there is a good number of tourist guests here. When we first arrived and there was three dead bolts on each door Debbie had some misgivings. The place is spartan but super clean. It is basically exactly what you need and nothing more. We were assured by the lady running the place it was perfectly safe. We are a short walk from the main street and no more that a long walk from most of the attractions. Mavis, the owners’ daughter in law, gave us a ride to and from the beach yesterday for less than 1/2 the cost of a taxi would have been. This is not a 5 star resort but it does not isolate us from the country the way a resort would and I like that better. I would have to say the place would not be for everyone.

There appears to be no ‘new’ clothing stores. They all look to be second hand clothing stores. Everyone is wearing T shirts with odd, or unusual, sayings and logos on them for the islands. So picture this. We North Americans clean out our closets and give bag loads of little worn clothes to an company like Value Village (a for profit company) that sorts through the clothes, puts the high end stuff on the floor in their shops in Edmonton and crates the other stuff off. Someone out there buys all these crates and they end up in places like Honiara in used clothing shops that service the population here. It’s a whole country clothed on the cast offs from North America. That is why we are seeing guys wearing shirts that say “POG Master” and “Harley Father’s Day”.

The garbage here is, how do I say this politely, atrocious. It’s everywhere and most people here do not care enough to find a garbage can. I see a middle aged, well dressed, woman toss a bottle into the long grass. Bonegi Beach, where we were yesterday, has two huge piles of beer cans just off the beach. It saddens me to see this much garbage. There would have to be a major clean up and campaign to change things around here and I am not sure it will ever happen. Honiara will just disappear under the piles of rubbish.

Yesterday, at the beach, we meet a group of university aged fellows from the US. They are traveling on the Golden Bear, a naval academy training ship. Some are learning how to be engineers and work “below deck” in the engine room and some are “top deck” trainees learning how to be Third Mates, in order to eventually climb to Captain. We had a great visit with a couple of the guys and one suggested that if we stopped by the ship, we could get a tour.

So that is what we did this afternoon. A nice young man, named Parrott, toured us through the bridge, student quarters, classrooms, mess hall and then passed us to an engineer student who took us down to the engine room. The quarters ranged from one person one room for the Captain, First Mate and the Instructors to six to a room to 12 to a room for the first year students. Pretty cramped for a two month journey. Overall the ship was well laid out, with every spare corner filled with stores.

The ship’s journey started in California, on to Samoa, the Solomon Islands, then Saipan, Maui and back to California. All the learning and practicing takes place while they are at sea, and then they will pull into a port for shore leave for three days, giving the students at least two days of leave each. The students work shifts and through a rotation learning the necessary naval skills. 

We were impressed with the friendliness of all the students and crew that we met and walked away having enjoyed our tour.

Tomorrow we start our journey home to the prairies. It will take us a few days as we have planned a short stop in Honolulu again. See you on the other side.

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