Thursday, February 28, 2013

Healesville Sanctuary, Victoria, Australia

27th December 2012
Healesville Sanctuary was established in 1934 and covers 74 acres. It is a zoo specialising in native Australian animals and has a history of breeding rare and endangered species.  It was about an hours drive from Steve and Natasha’s home, so we all decided to spend today here.  This was our last full day with Jules and Nicky, before they left for  a few days in Japan.
It was a very interesting day seeing some animals that are not easy to find outside captivity, especially the Tasmanian Devil and Echidna.
Tasmanian Devil now threatened by a mouth cancer

Tasmanian Devil

Ferocious Tasmanian Tiger - this ones stuffed but Ben and Emily
 looked now extinct scared by it! 

An Echidna - a fairly common Australian native animal
but rarely seen in the wild

No Zoo is complete without the kangaroo!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Cycle Ride with Emily

Boxing Day - 26th December 2012
Jules and Nicky decided to take a drive down the Great Ocean Road today, Ben had a play date and Alan was helping Steve with some outside work sanding down window frames ready for painting.

Busy painting

Emily and I cycled along Gardiner Creek and the River Yarra cycle tracks into the Melbourne Botanical Gardens, a distance of about 13kms each way.  The weather was perfect with clear blue skies. We had a very enjoyable amble around the lake and through the gardens, stopping for lunch before we cycled back home again.

Emily in the Botanical Gardens, Melbourne

This photo is for all the tea drinkers!

This photo is for our dear friends Christine and John
who love Camelias

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Christmas Day 2012

Ben with Airfix plane from Jules and

Christmas Day 2012

Ben and Emily slept surprisingly late this morning but they didn't waste any time before they were into opening their stocking presents, 

Ben favourite Lego - Star Wars from
Granny and Grandpa
Happy Emily

Emily opening Rummy-O from Mummy and

after which we enjoyed our traditional scrabbled eggs, smoked salmon and champagne breakfast.

Christmas breakfast
Emily couldn’t wait to try out her new bike so after breakfast we went over to their school, which is just opposite their house, where she could ride around the playground.
Emily on her new bike

She's just tried out her new bike lock
Late morning Suzy and Paul arrived with Natasha’s grandmother, Joan as did Natasha’s sisters, Tamara and Juanita and their husbands and children.  Their was a total of 13 adults and 4 children for Christmas dinner!  Juanita’s children spent Christmas day with their father.

Suzy arrived with table decorations that looked beautiful when she had finished.

Suzy adding her very artistic touch to the table

Chocolate bon-bons - the final touch on the olive trees
Whilst the adults enjoyed pre- dinner drinks, the children opened yet more presents.  Ben was delighted to have a second Darth Vader light saber to be able to fight against his friends, after he’d practiced with Jules and Suzy

Darth Vader battles with Suzy and

Steve and Natasha’s recently completed extension and renovation was such a wonderful space for us all to spend Christmas.

Tamara, Paul, Ruby and Lily
Suzy and Emily - Emily wearing the dress I made her for

Steve very successfully cooked the turkey on the Webber BBQ

Steve preparing the turkey for the BBQ - whilst Alan makes

What a spread!
Waiting patiently to start a wonderful meal

and we had huge prawns, honey glazed ham, studded with cloves, and some delicious salads prepared by Natasha’s sisters.  Paul, Natasha’s father, traditionally makes the Christmas pudding and brandy custard that as usual was very scrummy

Jules and Steve

What a wonderful Christmas Day – Thank-you Steve and Natasha.

Family Pre-Christmas Party

Sunday 23rd December 2012

Natasha’s parents Suzy and Paul had a pre Christmas family party today at their house in Upwey situated in the Dandenongs, which are about 40 mins drive from Melbourne.  The six cousins on Natasha’s side of the family all love the opportunity to get together.  
The cousins

Steve, Jules and Nicky on Suzy and Paul's outside kitchen

Friday, February 22, 2013

Jules and Nicky arrive

Monday 17th December 2012
Alan and I drove to Melbourne airport to pick up Jules and Nicky early on Monday morning.  It was beautiful day and, as Steve and Natasha were working and the children still at school, we went for a walk along the Gardiner Creek Trail, a tributary to the River Yarra which flows through Melbourne City.  It is close to where Steve lives.

Alan with Jules and Nicky over Gardiner Greek, Glen Iris,

A Day at Luna Park

 Saturday 15th December 2012
Dius Computing, the software company that Steve works for had arranged to have their Christmas party for employees and their families at Luna Park.  This historic amusement park situated at St Kilda, Melbourne was established in 1912 and has been operating almost continuously ever since.  The roller coaster is the oldest wooden roller coaster in the world that is still operating and it is a very scary ride – not because of the drops but because of the shaking and rattling of the carriages as they pass over the tracks.
Emily and Ben waiting to go on the ghost train
Ben and Diane 
Ben and Diane waiting to go on the ghost train
Emily had her face painted at the party

Steve, Alan, Emily and Ben ready to spin

Alan chasing Ben on the bumper cars
Unfortunately because of other commitments Natasha was unable to join us but we had a great time there with Steve and the children. We had access to unlimited rides and Ben and Emily had numerous rides on the bumper cars, which I think was Ben’s favourite ride. But he was terrified of the pirate ship, which swung so high it felt you would go over the top!
Now you see Ben

Where's he hiding!

Off to Melbourne for Christmas

After another few days working on Moonfleet in Rebak on the 13th December 2012, we flew overnight from Langkawi via Kuala Lumpur to Melbourne to spend 3 weeks with our son Steve, his wife Natasha and our grandchildren Emily and Ben.  Naturally we were every excited about seeing our family again.  Alan hadn’t seen them since they came to England in May 2010 for Alan’s mum’s 90th birthday celebrations.
To add to our excitement our other son Jules and Nicky, his girlfriend, were joining us on 17th December for 10 days over the Christmas period.  This was to be our first Christmas all together for 10 years.

Ben amused with grandpa's forfeit! Steve in background
making a carrot cake - yummie!

Which one should I choose

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Return to Kuching town

Prior to leaving for Bako we had booked into the Merdeka Palace Hotel, although not much more expensive than the previous hotel, it was far superior.  We had a very comfortable room with lovely views over the grassy square known as Central Padang and to a large mosque
The view from our room at the Merdeka Palace Hotel

Christmas decorations in the foyer of the hotel

Alan at the Merdeka Palace Hotel
Alan slept most of the next 24hrs whilst I spent some time wandering around Kuching, through Chinatown and the old Waterfront.  When he was feeling better we unexpectedly  saw some cruising friends, Marilyn and Ray from Horizon, wander past the coffee shop where we were having at drink and arranged to meet up with them later at the Top Spot for dinner.
We met up with Ray and Marilyn a few times over the next couple of days and enjoyed having their company.
After a week in Kuching we were ready to return to Langkawi.  Unfortunately some of the attractions we would like to have done whilst in the area were either too far away to do in a short time, eg a visit to the Longhouses where the Iban people live up the Rejang River, inland from Sibu, or else not the right time of the year, eg. Semonggoh Orangutan Sanctuary because it was the fruit season and the Orangutans do not come down from the trees to be fed.
Once back on Moonfleet we only had a few days before we had flights to Melbourne to stay with our son Steve and his wife Natasha and our very special grandchildren, Ben and Emily.  A few more jobs were tackled before we left – mainly electronics.

Bako National Park, Borneo

There were a number of travel agents advertising various trips to the Bako National Park for around 500 ringits (£100)  each. This included all travel, food and one nights accommodation in a basic lodge.  However on discovering that one could book the lodge separately at the National Park’s desk at the Information Centre in the Court House, we decided to make our own arrangements to get there and buy to food as we needed it.  As it turned out we did the overnight trip for just 150 ringits (£30)each, as we discovered that instead of a taxi we could catch a bus back to Kuching which cost just couple of ringits. 
On the 4th December we took a 40 mins taxi to the ferry dock to get a boat to the Park, which is situated on a peninsular at the mouth of the Sarawak River.  The park offers the chance to see native animals in wild.  At the ferry terminal we met a Dutch couple, also making their own way so we shared the cost of one of the small boats and a Guide between us.  As we approached the park and the open sea it was very choppy with the wind against tide, but the boat bounced off the waves at speed.

Sarawak River ferry dock to Bako National Park

Numerous trails at the Park
On arrival our first stop was at the Centre, a modern building with offices and a canteen.  We were able to leave our bags here before setting off with our Guide who initially took us on a path around the Centre where he pointed out some flying lemurs asleep in a tree and a green tree snake resting on a low bush
Our Guide

Flying Lemur

Green Tree Snake

The Bako National Park Centre

The trail, which took us a few hours to complete, initially led us along plank walks through the tidal mangroves and then along rocky, craggy tracks through the rainforest.  The park has many well-marked paths of varying lengths.  It was a very enjoyable trek made all the better because our Guide was able to point out all the flora around us.  He pointed out a wild bees nest –apparently these bees have no sting.
Alan on the trail

Small bees nest - only about 25cms long
However we didn’t see any animals on the trail, other than red crabs and mudskippers, until we returned to the path close to the centre.  Here we saw wild bearded pigs, macaque monkeys and the main attraction for me – the proboscis, or the long nosed monkey

Family of Bearded Pigs
Bearded Pig

Proboscis monkey

Alan had started to feel unwell on our trek and by the time we got back he was about all in!  We collected our bags and headed off to our accommodation
One of the chalets at Bako National Park

On approaching the chalet we were full of anticipation but the interior was very basic with torn lino on the floor and 2 small wooden beds – mine had a mattress with the springs poking out! There was no cooking facilities not even a kettle but there was a small, rusty fan attached to the ceiling. However when we arrived the electricity was off because they were working on the main power lines.  Alan collapsed on the bed feeling awful in the heat.  A couple of hours later the power was momentarily switched on again with a bang and one of the two overhead light bulbs fused!  It was another hour before it was finally turned on again.
The next morning Alan was still feeling poorly so we cut short our visit. As we left the views across the bay from Bako were stunning with the low clouds clinging to a small island and the macaque monkeys running across the beach.

Looking out from the Bako National Park Centre early morning