House Sitting

Langkawi, Malaysia

Langkawi the Jewel of Kedah

This statue represents one of the interpretations of the name Langkawi (Reddish-brown eagle in Malay). It is located in the administrative centre of Kuah which is the largest town on the island.

We have settled into our housesit on Langkawi Island in northern Malaysia. Not to give you the wrong idea, but one of the most attractive things about the island is it is a duty free zone. As Malaysia has the 3rd highest tax on alcohol in the world, this is a wonderful perk. There are limits on how much you can purchase a month, but they are fairly reasonable.

Malindo Air

Another wonderful find for us has been the Malaysian/Indonesian airline Malindo Air. Good service and comfortably spaced seats. As well, unlike North American airlines they do not gouge you for baggage weight. For this 65 minute flight we paid $65CDN for both of us and that included 30kg of checked luggage each.

The heat here is pretty brutal. The coolest time of the day is about an hour before sunrise when it is just 25 – 26C. During the day it gets up to 31 – 33C, the killer is the 65 – 95% humidity which adds another 10C of perceived heat. Thank goodness for air conditioning. This may not have been the best place to decide to start increasing my running mileage.

Rice Paddies

This fellows red top grabbed my attention as we were having our morning coffee. This is just off our back patio. Acres of rice paddies which they work with tractors and hand held hoes.

Evening Rain Showers

Most evenings we get some sort of rainfall. This evening we were also treated to some colour at sunset.

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So fortunate to have these wonderful cats to look after.

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As the home owners have been incredibly gracious in allowing us to use their vehicle we have also started exploring the island and look forward to seeing even more of it before we leave.

Tanjung Rhu Beach

Karen checking the water temperature on Tanjung Rhu Beach on the northeast corner of the island. It’s hot.

North Tanjung Rhu Beach

The clouds here are spectacular. This was on the north end of Tanjung Rhu Beach.

Stay tuned for more sights from Langkawi, as well as a report on the scuba diving here.

 

 

Categories: House Sitting, Malaysia, Photography, travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Tourist in Thailand

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It is as beautiful as the brochures advertise it.This island was made famous by the Bond movie, “The Man with the Golden Gun”

 

We spent a few days in Patong exploring, then a couple of weeks in Kamala Beach doing some house sitting for a couple. They are in Phuket province in the SW corner of Thailand.

Patong Beach is the second busiest tourist spot in this locale, surpassed only by Phuket, the capital of the province.

Our days in Patong were great. Once you resign yourself to the fact that everyone wants to sell you some type of goods or service, and that no one cares or is offended when you politely say “no thank you” 50 – 60 times an hour, it is quite a neat place to check out.

This food market just around the corner from our hotel was fantastic. Every evening it would transform from a parking lot to a bustling food market. The seafood was incredible. Best lobster I have ever had.

You could get fresh fish to fruit ice cream as well as many choices in between. The ice cream was made with cream and fresh fruit chopped and mixed on a frozen tray. Very interesting technique I thought.

We also did an organized tour of Phang Nga Bay, the location of James Bond Island. The two hour drive was long, but well worth it. The tour consisted of a boat ride with lunch, kayaking with a guide and swimming. As well as a stop at James Bond Island.

We were treated to a guided paddle through caves and around these limestone islands

This boat was just heading into one of the caves. We had to lay down in the boats to fit in the entrances.

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The monkeys wait patiently at the points where the kayaks have to come near the shore so they can easily jump aboard for the food they have learned is there.

This monkey has chosen his boat well. They know where the food is. The tours are quite a production here and very well orchestrated.

This was our tour boat. All the kayaks and guides were on the lower deck and the tourists and food were on the upper deck. A great way to see the islands.

The lunchtime spread was simple but delicious.

The shapes and colours of these islands is truly something to behold. Even though there are a lot of tours running through the area, there seems to be some effort to control the impact, which was nice to see.

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Posing for our guide as we floated amongst the islands. Beautiful.

We were very fortunate to be able to spend a couple of days with the owners of the house we were going to be taking care of in Kamala Beach before they departed on their trip. They were kind enough to take us touring the area for a day which was great.

We drove out to the Buddha Cave Temple (Wat Suwannakuha), also referred to as the Monkey Temple. There are hundreds of monkeys there that know they will be well fed by the locals and tourists alike. They are absolutely unafraid of humans (not such a good thing) but we had no problems with them.

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Some of the hundreds of monkeys that make their home around the Monkey Temple.

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These monkeys were disturbing at first due to the shear numbers. But once you relaxed they were fine. Made it very easy to get photos.

The temple itself is located inside a fair sized cave. For a nominal donation you are free to wander around the cave. There is a bit of information available, but not much. The reclining Buddha in the cave is pretty impressive.

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The reclinling Buddha in the main chamber of the cave is quite impressive. There is also a section where all the Kings of Thailand have visited and carved their personal symbol into the wall of the cave. A neat bit of history.

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When we exited the cave we went for a walk around the area. Once you get away from the parking area the interactions of the monkeys amongst themselves was very interesting to observe. They really are amazing animals.

Our hosts also took us to the Phang Nga Wildlife Nursery Station. This is a government run refuge for animals that cannot survive in the wild. I believe the intent is good, however it is obviously seriously underfunded and thus the animals appear somewhat distressed.

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All the enclosures are either chain link or concrete pits.

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We wrapped up the day on a much happier note when we stopped in at the Buddhist temple, Wat Kaew Manee Si Mahathat.

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This massive statue is of Buddhist monk, Por Than Klai. You cannot miss it as you drive along the highway. We stopped so our hosts could pay their respects and say a pray.

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The temple itself is quite similar to the hundreds of others in the country. It is beautifully cared for and colourful. Truly the statue sets it apart though.

During our two week house sitting in Kamala Beach we spent several days enjoying the sun and surf down on the beach.

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The view across the bay from Kamala Beach

It has been a wonderful time here in Thailand and we look forward to returning sometime in 2017.

Categories: House Sitting, Photography, Thailand, travel, Wildlife | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Angkor Wat and Siem Reap

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We received more than a few curious looks from children when they realized there were foreigners in the tuk tuk beside them.

We have been so fortunate to have had our introduction to SE Asia begin here in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Starting with a fantastic house sit looking after two very interesting sphinx cats in the heart of Siem Reap. It has been a wonderful experience.

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Sam was very affectionate, even rather demanding of attention. He had a very interesting personality.

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The female, Dotty, loved to be up high, watching over everything. It took a bit of getting used to.

The primary reason most people come to Siem Reap is to visit the largest temple in the world, Angkor Wat. This incredible assortment of temples, gates, walls, and former cities truly is a testament to what humans can create.

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Once you see this place you understand why Tomb Raider was filmed here. The buildings and nature are absolutely surreal.

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Even after visiting Angkor Wat I have trouble fathoming the size of it. The detail in every aspect of its construction and the fact that is over 900 years old. Oh….and is in the middle of a jungle.

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We hired a guide for our introduction to Angkor Wat. Ta provided great advice and even had extra umbrellas for the sun or the rain.

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It is a photographic smorgasbord walking and driving around the area. Not only the buildings, but the wildlife and people are beautiful to behold.

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These local kids were having a blast playing and splashing in the moat around one of the temples. As well they were collecting snails for the dinner table. A very productive way to spend a brutally hot afternoon.

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As with any popular tourist site in the world, there were no lack of hawkers trying to sell there goods. A constant chorus of “Just one dollar, you buy?”

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We asked Ta to take us to where the locals ate lunch. He delivered, big time. As we sat down with the tuk tuk drivers and delivery drivers we were able to watch the cooking, washing, and family interactions as we ate lunch. The cost of $5US for both of our lunches was an incredible deal.

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This brief moment of blue sky over The Bayon from the SW corner was the only colour we got in the sky all day. Fortunately the site offers many ways to compensate for a drab sky.

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Sometimes the colour was good enough to come and find us. This fellow rode around on my camera bag for several minutes.

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The thing about the temples is no matter where you go, you are being watched. The faces carved into the temples, facing all four directions are omnipresent. Great for photography, but a bit unsettling at times.

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This hallway on the north side of Angkor Wat is one of dozens and dozens of incredibly aligned corridors that have stood the test of time. Perhaps with a bit of restoration, but none the less, amazing architecture.

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This hallway just inside the inner west entrance had incredible carvings on every surface. The remnants of colour were very cool.

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And just around the corner in the hallway this fellow had more than enough to meditate on with thousands of tourists walking by every day.

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Most of the day was overcast, so our “no show” for a sunset was no surprise. We still set up, just in case though.

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At least the rain held off for us. As we left Angkor Wat these clouds chased us down the street. The deluge started just as we got into our vehicle. All in, an awesome day.

In addition to the temples there are plenty of museums, restaurants, bars, and other points of interest to keep one busy. We took it fairly easy during our two weeks here, but the advantage of this type of lifestyle is there is a very good chance we will be back here sometime in the next 2 or 3 years.

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In addition to the conventional massage available (which were wonderful) there was plenty of opportunity to try a fish exfoliation on your feet. To say it tickled is an understatement.

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You start with the small fish then move your feet into the tank with the larger fish. The whole process took about an hour.

 

Within central Siem Reap there are at least 4 massage businesses on every single block, and that is being conservative. As well, when you get to the area called Pub Street, the price for draft beer is 50cents during happy hour.

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The tourist hot spot at night is Pub Street. I found it very busy, but not overwhelming. Tuk tuk drivers are constantly asking if you want a ride, but a polite “no thank you” and they back off.

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Apparently this bar, The Red Piano, became famous when the cast and crew from Tomb Raider started hanging out here. Nothing special as far as a bar goes, but it is in a perfect location for people watching if you get a table near the street.

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If you still feel the need to shop, the night market is right across the street from Pub Street. More importantly, we found there were some great places to eat in this area that were a little cheaper than Pub Street.

The last place we checked out was the Cambodia War Museum. It certainly is nothing like the war museums I have seen in London or Canberra, but it had a certain rawness to it that conveyed it’s point.

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The Cambodia War Museum is a very basic set of displays

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The displays were pretty good considering this is an extremely low budget museum. They showed just how destructive the after effects of the many wars have been on the civilian population.

If you come to Cambodia you have to see Angkor Wat. But don’t limit yourself to just that. There are several sights worth investing half a day checking out and transportation is cheap and easy, though for Siem Reap itself we found it small enough to be able to walk most places in town.

Off to Phnom Penh now.

 

Categories: Cambodia, Food, House Sitting, Photography, travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

House Sitting Australia

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Some animals just have a way of getting a hold of your heart. We were very fortunate to be able to look after Bentley on two seperate occasions.

To be honest it should be called pet sitting. I understand once in a while people just watch over a house, but for us it has always involved animals. And I’m glad it has. In our 12 months in Australia we have completed 11 house sits in 10 different homes. This included 10 dogs, 4 cats, more than 25 birds and at least 18 fish. Sometimes you lose count when they are constantly moving.

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There were always plenty of wild creatures that happily took care of themselves around the many properties.

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A kookaburra watching over our laundry.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you are thinking,”Geez, this house sitting sounds like a cool idea.” You are right, it is. As long as you are open to quickly adapting to the unique requirements of a wide variety of animals and their owners, it is awesome. Sometimes people question being in other peoples homes and trust issues. If this is a serious concern for you, don’t do it. We have found that the type of people who love their pets so much they can’t imagine putting them in “Pet hotels” are some of the warmest, trusting humans you will meet. Their primary concern is their pet or pets and if that is your main concern things will be just fine.

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Zoe was our first cat and quickly demonstrated to us how much fun a cat can be.

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These two poodles were our introduction to the very popular Australian dog food of raw chicken. Nothing like the crunching of chicken necks coming from a little poodle.

 

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And of learning to work with animals with disabilities.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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When we had a family emergency and Karen had to return home for a couple of weeks I was lucky enough to have Lulu Belle to watch. She had more than enough love to help lift my spirits.

Flexibility is probably one of the greatest assets when house sitting full time. Being able to adjust to changes in home owners schedules and finding something fun to do when you are without a home to live in. We were able to fit in a couple of diving trips to the Great Barrier Reef, as well as exploring the Great Ocean Road and the City of Sydney when we were free from sitting.

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A wonderfully friendly cat, Sam.

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And Sam’s significantly less friendly companion, Vader. Vader came around in time though.

 

 

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A rare moment of quiet with these wonderful 1 year old siblings Simba and Nala.

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Pippin was a wonderful companion and kept an eye on me as I learned the finer point of pool maintenance at this house sit.

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Barney helped us learn the beauty of older dogs. All they want is love and raw chicken legs.

 

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The experience is a kaleidoscope of breeds. We truly learned to enjoy the fantastic personalities.

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The one consistent trait was “It is dinner time….isn’t it?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The uniqueness of looking after beautiful birds and their interesting personality traits.

 

 

 

 

 

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I also started to learn the fascination of fish. Certainly easy to look after.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It has been years since we have had our own dog, but being able to parachute into different homes and look after other people’s pets certainly reminds us why we loved having dogs. Their simple desire to be loved and played with is a good reminder of the responsibility they carry and what they give to the relationship.

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Charlie was an outside dog that was just tickled if you would throw that ball for hours.

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And Mia was happy to watch Charlie run back and forth all day.

 

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And of course Ernie and Bert reminded me of the old guys in the Muppets watching over everything and commenting to each other.

Our saddest time when it came to animals was when we were watching over an injured wild lorikeet which unfortunately died while we were at the house. I never thought I would be sad over a bird passing away, but it had such an intense personality and when it passed there were no lack of tears in the house.

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A free wild lorikeet visiting the injured one we were watching over. Stumpy was fun to interact with but obviously not meant to survive.

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Lots of energetic finches.

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Bossy canaries

 

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And quiet quails.

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One of many new experiences was looking after chickens, or “chooks” as they are called here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Some of the other serendipities were things like learning how to make a proper cup of coffee.

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And being able to hold the original Melbourne Cup.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Rosie was our final house sit and a pleasure. A great representative of larger breeds.

We feel we have only just scratched the surface of this vast country. We never made it far from the east coast and even then, I feel there are many places to explore in these regions as well as reaching west. It is safe to say we will be back within a few years to continue exploring Australia.

In the mean time, it is time to start packing for Asia. Life is good.

 

Categories: Australia, House Sitting, Photography, travel | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Lake Macquarie

We have spent the last couple of months enjoying a life in suburbia in the City of Lake Macquarie. Located just south of Newcastle and a couple of hours north of Sydney in New South Wales. To be honest, we are very appreciative that we had access to a vehicle for this house sitting gig. The area we are in is beautiful, however it is not pedestrian friendly. With the use of our trusty Kia we were able to explore the region and find some real gems.

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A picnic in the park after a walk along the esplanade at Warner’s Bay.

Warners Bay

Warners Bay is one of the many inlets around Lake Macquarie.

For me the best find during our stay here was when Karen was checking the area out online and found a link to the Newcastle Cross Country Club. This volunteer organization does a run in a different location each week for the 22 week winter running season. I was able to attend 8 of these races and it was a wonderful experience. Karen also came and volunteered at the finish line so we had an outstanding opportunity to meet some great people and be introduced to several areas of the region we otherwise would not have found.

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This was the site of one of the runs with the Newcastle Cross Country Club. Beautiful brickwork and a fascinating bit of local history at the Walka Water Works.

We also ventured north to Newcastle a few times to explore some of what they had to offer. This is an industrial coal city that is working hard to attract tourism.

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This fort/lookout was the site of the only Australian land based artillery to fire at the enemy during World War 2. They exchanged shots with a Japanese submarine.

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We checked out the Heat Meets Harbour winter festival in central Newcastle. Absolutely packed with people and open fires, what could go wrong?

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The art deco facade of the Newcastle Ocean Baths.

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Due to the extreme high tide and heavy waves the pool was closed. It was amazing to watch the ocean waves crashing over the walls into the pools.

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Looking south across Newcastle Beach toward the Ocean Baths.

Of course with house sitting there are usually some animals to look after. What was unique about this gig was there were no cats or dogs. We had 5 fish and a variety of birds to watch over. Quite a change of pace for us, but it was good. The only frustrating part was having to wait 6 weeks before the chickens decided to start providing us with fresh eggs.

 

As well as the kept birds, we also had a colourful variety of wild birds that made their way through the yard.

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Rainbow Lorikeets

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Galahs

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This cockatoo seemed a bit confused by the weathervane.

Another area we found through the running club was Caves Beach. We made a point of revisiting this area at low tide so we could spend some time exploring the caves.

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Looking out of one of the caves toward the surf. A very popular place for families.

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The tidal pools along Caves Beach were teeming with colour and life.

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The surf was alive with surfers, kayakers, and spear fishermen. It was wonderful to see an area being enjoyed by so many.

Other than having to put up with slightly chilly temperatures we have had a wonderful time here in Lake Macquarie and have enjoyed exploring the region. We even managed to check out some wineries in the Hunter region. However now we are busy packing and prepping to head back north to the Brisbane area for our last few months in Australia. Let the adventure continue.

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I was trying to explain that she was too close for me to get a photo. Just wouldn’t listen though. We were visiting the wild kangaroos just outside of Morisset.

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The site of the old Insane Asylum in Morisset is where people go to interact with “wild” kangaroos. Lots of little joeys to be seen.

 

Categories: Australia, House Sitting, New South Wales, Photography, travel, Wildlife | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Albury Road Trips

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Despite heavy smoke, the view from The Horn in Buffalo National Park was beautiful. This is looking northeast from the top of the 1723 metre Mount Buffalo (The Horn).

As we enter our final few days in the beautiful Albury area I thought it a good time to highlight some of the day trips we enjoyed in the area. With this second house sit in Albury we were incredibly fortunate to have the use of a vehicle which allowed us to vastly increase our exploring of the area.

Mt. Buffalo Road Trip

Our route south down to Mount Buffalo and the Chalet and Gorge.

Lake Mulwalla Road Trip

The route of our eastern trip to Yarrawonga and around Lake Mulwalla.

Canberra Road Trip

The route of our trip to Canberra, northeast of us. That was a long day of driving. 3.5 hours each way.

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Built in 1910 to resemble the grand railroad hotels built in the Canadian Rockies, The Mount Buffalo Chalet is unfortunately facing an uncertain future.

We had a wonderful day in Mount Buffalo National Park walking up to The Horn on top of Mount Buffalo and checking out the Chalet and Gorge. Unfortunately there was a lot of burning going on in the region so the smoke severely limited the visibility, but still a great day.

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The winding road up to Mount Buffalo is a motorcyclists dream.

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Great imagination was used when constructing the access path to the Horn on Mount Buffalo. Definitely not handicap accessible.

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Even with the smoke the view down the gorge by the Mount Buffalo Chalet was amazing.

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The view of the Mount Buffalo Chalet from across The Gorge puts the grandeur of the geography in perspective.

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The size of some of the old volcanic rocks littering the landscape in Buffalo National Park are impressive.

We enjoyed some very interesting day trips to local towns as well. We learned about the infamous Ned Kelly (good name to remember if you are ever playing trivia in Australia) and were fortunate enough to witness the fall colours coming to the region.

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The town of Beechworth has capitalized on the notoriety of a local criminal, Ned Kelly. The history of this murdering thief who somehow became a national icon is documented in Beechworth, where he was initially jailed after his capture in 1880.

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The autumn colours were coming in strong while we were in Beechworth. We sampled the offerings at the excellent Bridge Road Brewers. The beer and pizza are fantastic.

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The Beechworth Lunatic Asylum operated from 1867 until it closed it’s doors in 1995.

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Just north of Beechworth are Woolshed Falls. It was one of the locations that supplied the massive amounts of gold that caused the establishment of the town of Beechworth in 1853.

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This massive fellow waddled up to check us out when we were having a picnic in the park in Yarrawonga beside the Lake Mulwala. He was at least a metre tall as he stood beside us.

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This crosswalk in Beechworth clearly sums up where you stand as a pedestrian in Australia. Unless you are in a “Zebra” crossing you had better make sure there are no cars coming. Funny how this seems to work so well. North America could learn from this.

Our longest road trip was a 14 hour day trip to the capital city of Canberra. It was everything one would expect from a capital and the weather only made it that much better. As the country was preparing for their Anzac Day (Remembering and appreciating their military veterans) it was very powerful touring the War Memorial.

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At 81 metres high, the flag post on top of the Australian Parliament is the largest stainless steel structure in the southern hemisphere.

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We are on the roof of the Parliament building in Canberra with the Old Parliament buildings, The Anzac Parade and the Australian War Memorial stretched out behind us.

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Looking up the Anzac Parade from the Australian War Memorial toward the Australian Parliament. The bleachers are for the upcoming Anzac Day celebrations.

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The Roll of Honour in the commemorative courtyard where the names of over 102,000 Australians killed in conflicts since 1885 are inscribed in bronze.

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Australian Police Memorial in the heart of Canberra beside the National Carillon and Lake Burley Griffin. The names of over 750 Police Officers are listed.

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There are inscriptions in the stonework of quotes from family members of fallen Police Officers.

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The Australian Mint is celebrating the 50 anniversary of the introduction of decimal currency.

Another brilliant experience was visiting the Bonegilla Migrant Experience museum. This was just a short drive from where we were living, but it was like stepping back in time to see how post World War 2 migrants were processed and treated when they arrived in Australia. A must see sight if possible, especially if your family had to make a choice between Australia and Canada between the 50’s and 70’s.

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The heritage site of “Bonegilla Migrant Experience” is a powerful museum portraying the initial life of migrants arriving in post WW2 Australia.

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One of the recreated bedrooms in the bunkhouses that served as a temporary home for arriving migrants.

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Block 19 is the only surviving block of the 24 blocks of buildings in Bonegilla that saw 320,000 migrants pass through it’s doors as they arrived in Australia.

The last thing I would like to share was some of the cycling in the area. The great path system and wonderful weather made cycling a great way to see things.

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Taking a break during our bike ride along Lake Hume. I found the skeletons of the flooded trees sticking out of the water rather creepy.

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These dilapidated rail cars were at an abandoned siding at Huon beside Lake Hume.

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Lakeside camping at Huon on Lake Hume

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The 600 metre long Sandy Creek Rail Bridge is part of the High Country Rail to Trail system. It appears a little odd with no water in this end of Lake Hume.

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At less than 20% of it’s capacity, Lake Hume provides an interesting landscape to cycle through.

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The entrance to the Wonga Wetlands just west of Albury.

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Fall is quickly settling in here. The pathways through the Wonga Wetlands provided an amazing setting to enjoy the transition.

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There were several very well maintained hides for observing birds strategically placed throughout the Wonga Wetlands.

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The water level was very low throughout the wetlands. A beautiful area to explore.

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We were able to enjoy a gorgeous day at the Albury Botanical Gardens enjoying a free concert in the sunshine by Emma Pask, an Australian jazz vocalist.

It has been a fantastic time here in Albury, NSW and it is safe to say we enjoyed every minute. But now for new adventures. Getting packed up and heading toward Sydney later this week.

Categories: Australia, House Sitting, Photography, travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Life in Albury

Pelicans taking off near the Murray River.

Pelicans taking off near the Murray River.

We are coming to the end of our first month in Albury, New South Wales and are finding that, we quite like it here.

Sunrise on one of the effluent lagoons on the edge of Town.

Sunrise on one of the effluent lagoons on the edge of Town.

We are currently in West Albury and are finding life here very enjoyable. As far as house sits go it is excellent. We are right beside some small hills with an abundance of trails and are only 1.5km from the lagoons and the Murray River which forms the border between New South Wales and the state of Victoria. The trails and pathways are wonderful.

A view along one of the trails on Nailcan hill as the sun is just peeking over the horizon.

A view along one of the trails on Nailcan Hill as the sun is just peeking over the horizon.

It is a fantastic opportunity to work on my sunrise photos, as everyday has something to offer.

It is a fantastic opportunity to work on my sunrise photos, as everyday has something to offer.

One of the challenges of house sitting without a car is getting around some urban areas. Some municipalities have fantastic public transit, and some not so much. The only downfall we have found in Albury has been the transit system. It is here, and there are stops near our place, but the buses run hourly for only some of the day and the cost is a bit high. It cost $16.80 for the two of us to do a round trip to the shops. However, we have found the perfect solution. A wonderful lady at one of our previous house sits introduced us to the joys of home delivery. With a small bit of planning the local grocery store, (and liquor store) will deliver to your doorstep for free. How good is that?! These fine gentleman actually bring the groceries right into the kitchen and lay them out on the table for you. It is awesome.

We have also been fortunate enough to watch some of the local emergency services at work when there was a brush fire less than a kilometre from our house.

A helicopter dumping its' load on the leading edge of the fire.

A helicopter dumping its’ load on the leading edge of the fire.

This small water bomber came at the fire from right over our heads.

This small water bomber came at the fire from right over our heads.

Helping the firefighters on the ground with close support.

Helping the firefighters on the ground with close support.

With temperatures 10C above normal here the fire was not that surprising and provided a bit of entertainment and reminiscing. We still managed to get our daily reading/pool time in despite the excitement.

Managing the heat.

Managing the heat.

The other neat aspect of living here are the kangaroos. We have been in Australia for 5 months but this is the first time we have seen kangaroos in the “wild”. Wild being our front yard. It is very cool to be going for an evening walk and come face to face with 20 – 30 kangaroos. It has certainly checked one of the must see boxes for Australia.

The local kangaroos coming down off the hill in the evening.

The local kangaroos coming down off the hill in the evening.

The male keeping an eye on us as we were watching the bush fire.

The male keeping an eye on us as we were watching the bush fire.

We are looking forward to our next house sit here in Albury at the end of the month. We will just be having a little vacation down near Melbourne for a week before we start that one though. One must remember to take it easy periodically.

A view of the sunset from the hill behind our house.

A view of the sunset from the hill behind our house.

Life is good.

Categories: Australia, House Sitting, Photography, travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Birds and Other Creatures

Australian King Parrot

This Australian king parrot is a daily visitor in the yard.

When it comes to Australia, typically people tend to think of koalas and kangaroos. And though there are koalas and kangaroos to be seen the most overwhelming animals we have noticed have been the birds, everywhere.

Rainbow Lorikeets

Colourful Rainbow lorikeets are everywhere, adding their splash of colour to neighbourhoods. This is in our back yard.

Australian King-parrot

This pair came to gorge themselves in the feeder in our yard.

We affectionately refer to them as the “DB’s” (damn birds) due to the habit, no matter where we are, of waking up and all joining in a cacophony of noise at about 4:30AM.

Crested Pigeon

Without a doubt the punker in the group.

Bush Turkey

This fellow was hanging out in our backyard. Just relaxing and looking good.

It amazes me the variety and colour of birds that have come through our urban residential yard. The magpies are not that surprising as they adopt to humans the world over. It is the turkeys and cockatoos that get your attention.

Australian Magpies

These are very intelligent and assertive birds that clean up anything laying around.

Cocky Magpie

This Australian Magpie was not bothered by the dog, cat, or fake owls. It was just mad the food was all gone.

In addition to the birds parading through our yard there were plenty to be seen at the Botanic Gardens and the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary.

Pacific Black Duck

A Pacific black duck feeding amongst the lilies.

Australian Coot

Wonderfully sharp looking Coot.

Dusky Moorhen

An amazingly colourful head on this Moorhen.

Australian Wood Duck

There were lots of these beauties at the Koala Sanctuary.

Baby Owl

A worker at the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary pointed this baby owlet to me.

We were fortunate enough to be able to take in a presentation on birds of prey in Australia while we were at the Koala Sanctuary. As always it was impossible to not be in awe of these magnificent birds.

Wedge-tailed eagle

This impressive Wedge-tailed eagle forced you to respect the power of these birds.

Barking Owl

This bird had the most amazing personality. Very cool to watch the handlers work with it.

Barking Owl

In case you are curious, that is the tail of a mouse hanging out of its’ beak.

Barn Owl in Flight

This Barn owl taking food off a volunteers hand.

There were plenty of other animals at the Koala Sanctuary. From lizards that would walk right up to your feet to the namesake koalas.

Eastern Water Dragon

These Eastern water dragons are everywhere. They are not at all afraid of humans.

Kangaroo

One of the many kangaroos at the Lone Pine Koala Sanctuary.

Spiders, spiders, spiders

There is no lack of spiders and webs among the leaves at the Botanic Gardens.

And, of course, the koalas.

Baby Koala

The koala kindergarten was full of these little fellows. Too cute.

How can you not love the koalas?

Categories: Australia, House Sitting, Photography, Queensland, travel, Wildlife | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Enjoying Brisbane

Having finished our first month in Australia I thought it was time for a little update. We have been able to explore a bit of the Brisbane CBD and some outlying areas.

One of only three bridges in the world that allow you to climb to the top. Very cool.

One of only three bridges in the world that allow you to climb to the top. Very cool.

In addition to Auckland and Sydney, Brisbane has one of the three bridges in the world which you can climb to the top of. We were fortunate enough to have a very small group for our tour. Karen, myself and our awesome guide Paris.

A photo of the group in front of us at the halfway point on the bridge.

A photo of the group in front of us at the halfway point on the bridge.

If you are ever in Brisbane and thinking of this tour make sure you go to the website of the company as major savings can be scored there. As well, they now give you a free copy of all the photos taken on the tour. A pretty good deal, as no one is allowed to take cameras, or anything else up on the bridge. In fact, if you are doing an afternoon tour make sure you skip the beer with lunch as you have to blow into a breathalyser before the tour. The operators give an outstanding tour with tons of information, but they take their access to the bridge very seriously.

We were so fortunate to be the only two on our climb of the Story Bridge. The views were amazing.

We were so fortunate to be the only two on our climb of the Story Bridge. The views were amazing.

In addition to the amazing views I had the questionable distinction of being the first customer to actually be hit by the resident crow that has a nest on the bridge. We were warned before we headed up of the crow and that it would do some flybys and squawk at us. However it must have been our small group because it chose me to actually push with it’s feet and hit in the head with it’s wings. It made for a very memorable trip. I highly recommend it.

Our train arriving at the station to take us into the CBD of Brisbane.

Our train arriving at the station to take us into the CBD of Brisbane.

One of the things that makes exploring Brisbane and area so easy is the public transit system. We have had an opportunity to use the buses, trains, and boats with absolutely no problems. I would suggest getting a GO Card at any station which allows you to simply swipe on and swipe off any part of the system and your balance is constantly updated and relayed to you. The $10AUS for the card is even refundable when you are done with it and want to get any balance left on the card paid back to you. Love it.

Looking south, down the east coast of Straddie. Bit of a grey day, but great for walking.

Looking south, down the east coast of Straddie. Bit of a grey day, but great for walking.

Karen and I utilized the transit system to head to North Stradbroke Island, “Straddie” to the locals. Though the day was a bit dreary looking it ended up being perfect for walking around the island. The ferry out to the island and the bus on the island are not part of the Brisbane transit system, but they are worth the money they cost. The passenger ferry is fast and the bus on the island is a carnival ride all it’s own. The drivers were very skilled and I’m pretty sure they would do very well playing “Forza” on Xbox, the way they handled the curves on the island roads. To be fair, I never felt scared, just entertained.

A view of the popular Cylinder Beach on the north end of North Stradbroke Island.

A view of the popular Cylinder Beach on the north end of North Stradbroke Island.

We were able to see some whales in the distance from the island and some dolphins swimming closer to shore. As well the time spent on Cylinder Beach was enough to help me understand why this is such a popular destination for locals.

So lucky to be able to run a race with my good friend Bryce while in the Manly, Queensland area.

So lucky to be able to run a race with my good friend Bryce while in the Manly, Queensland area.

Another activity I managed to take in was a 10km road race being hosted in the town where we were house sitting in Manly. A fellow expat and good friend, Bryce, joined me for a fun race up the shoreline with beautiful views the entire way. It is a wonderful way to integrate with locals with similar interests.

The crowds starting to appear for the Halloween street party hosted by the Town of Manly. Brilliant idea.

The crowds starting to appear for the Halloween street party hosted by the Town of Manly. Brilliant idea.

Another great event we were able to take part in was the Manly Town Halloween party. It is advertised as the biggest halloween party in Australia and from what we saw it certainly was well attended. The streets started filling at noon and were pretty well packed until 9:00 when the fireworks over the harbour signalled the end of the festivities.

All sorts of local clubs were in evidence sharing their love of a variety of activities.

All sorts of local clubs were in evidence sharing their love of a variety of activities.

In addition to the fencing club there were remote controlled sailboats, standup paddleboard and Dragon boat demos to entertain. As well as rides and enough carnival food to satisfy anyone. It was wonderful to see a community based event so well attended with so many families and costumes.

The locals gathering for the fireworks display near the end of the evening on Halloween night.

The locals gathering for the fireworks display near the end of the evening on Halloween night.

We certainly enjoyed our time house sitting in Wynnum/Manly and are looking forward to our next gig in Griffin. We will miss Bentley and his wonderful personality.

Trying to do some reading but someone wants to play.

Trying to do some reading but someone wants to play.

And I would be lying if I said I was not going to miss this view every morning as I got out of bed.

We will miss this gorgeous view every morning from our bedroom in Wynnum.

We will miss this gorgeous view every morning from our bedroom in Wynnum.

Categories: Australia, House Sitting, Photography, Queensland, transportation, travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

G’Day Australia!

Waiting to board our delayed Jetstar flight for Brisbane, Australia.
Waiting to board our delayed Jetstar flight for Brisbane, Australia.

First things first…What a wonderful country Australia is! Despite the 18 page visa application and required x-rays and fees, once you do what they ask it is an incredible easy country to enter.

Even though on the eve of setting off for Australia things looked a little bleak, i.e. we were informed by our budget airline, Jetstar, that our flight out of Honolulu was going to be at least five hours late. That was the last negative whisper we heard on our trip to down under. The five hour delay allowed us to be able to get up at a reasonable hour. Though I was admittedly nervous about our upcoming nine and a half hour flight on a “budget” airline, our travel luck continued to hold. We ended up boarding a beautiful Dreamliner aircraft where I was able to enjoy four full length feature movies in a surprisingly comfortable seat. The flight attendants could have used an injection of personality and happiness; I am sure they had their reasons to be so mute. Perhaps it was the bleak quality of the food they were serving us that we had pre ordered for the flight. But really, in the overall scope of things we had paid $750US ($950CDN) with no grief whatsoever for luggage weights as opposed to paying $1600US for a seat on other airlines. As an added bonus, for whatever reason the pilots laid on the gas and managed to cut an entire hour off of our travel time to Brisbane. I have no complaints with our flight with Jetstar.

Certainly see why the license plates advertise "The Sunshine State". Non-stop sunshine so far.

Certainly see why the license plates advertise “The Sunshine State”. Non-stop sunshine so far.

Admittedly arriving in a new country can be a little stressful, not for us. We were incredibly fortunate to have an excellent Canadian friend who now lives in Aus pick us up at the airport and deliver us to our other long time friends who now live in the same area. Small world.

I would like to reiterate again, I love this country!

In our first few days here we have had the honour of being toured around some of the local sights on the outskirts of Brisbane by our friends.

The entrance to a short lane dedicated to some of the most famous residents of Redcliffe, Queensland.

The entrance to a short lane dedicated to some of the most famous residents of Redcliffe, Queensland.

Not being a big music fan I had no idea that the community of Redcliffe has the coolest lane just off the waterfront where you can learn as much as you would like about the Bee Gees. Apparently their family moved to Redcliffe when they were very young and they spent their formative years there.

Hanging out with some of the locals from Redcliffe, Queensland.

Hanging out with some of the locals from Redcliffe, Queensland.

Learning this bit of modern history and basking in the incredibly wonderful hot Australian sun was the perfect way to overcome whatever small amount of jet lag we may have been suffering.

An open air museum of the Bee Gees.

An open air museum of the Bee Gees.

We also have already had a chance to see some of the interesting wildlife we had heard so much about. The White Ibis below did not seem to be bothered in the least to be surrounded by hundreds of Flying Fox bats in a nearby public park.

It did not take long to see some of the more interesting wildlife in this neck of the woods.

It did not take long to see some of the more interesting wildlife in this neck of the woods.

Within days of our arrival Karen and I started our first house sitting job in Australia. We are comfortably set up with our charge, Bentley, enjoying the idyllic life of leisure along the coast of Brisbane.

Fantastic to see the abundance of public facilities available all along the shoreline. Clean electric grills waiting for a quick fry up.

Fantastic to see the abundance of public facilities available all along the shoreline. Clean electric grills waiting for a quick fry up.

Between the first class pathways, incredible free shore front facilities and fantastic transit system we are having to shake our heads that things can actually be this good somewhere.

Enjoying a fantastic weekend market down by the harbour in Manly, Queensland.

Enjoying a fantastic weekend market down by the harbour in Manly, Queensland.

I look forward in the coming posts to sharing some of our experiences of starting to fit in and settle into life in this amazing country. The locals in the markets and businesses have been nothing but wonderfully helpful and welcoming of us and we look forward to continue meeting more interesting people here.

It is easy to get used to this view everyday whether one is getting out for a run or a walk.

It is easy to get used to this view everyday whether one is getting out for a run or a walk.

G’Day Australia, and thank you for having us.

Enjoying the panoramic vista from the top of Mt. Coot-Tha west of Brisbane.

Enjoying the panoramic vista from the top of Mt. Coot-Tha, west of Brisbane.

Categories: Australia, House Sitting, Photography, Queensland, transportation, travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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