New Zealand – Exit Stage Left

Well, the day the Wilsons have been looking forward to finally arrived! The Harrises Left!!! (The whooshing sound you may have heard and may have been reported on the local Cyclone-warning network was their Collective sigh of utter relief).

The washed-out roads were still washed out, but Kevin was DETERMINED to ensure our exit. There was apparently an alternate route not involving Medevac Chopper, and this proved ultimately successful in delivering us to the Auckland Airport.

Our flight to Brisbane was uneventful…China Airlines delivered us on time in an apparent half-hour! Well, in fact, it is a three-plus hour flite with a 3 hour time change. Leave 8:45 arrive 9:15. All that translates to a LONG TRAVEL DAY for us. Made longer by the fact that we had to secure a rental car and find our way ( on the wrong side of the road, in the dark, AFTER all of said travel adventure) to friend Kathy Dryland’s place.

I don’t know how tired he thought we were… he even offered a child seat.

Speaking of the rental car, the cheerful Aussie Agent attempted the usual up-sells with the obviously tired tourists standing in front of him. “Gee, you rented a small car…” “Are you sure you don’t want the additional coverage – we have major hailstorms here and of course you will be responsible…” “How about the ‘convenience’ of only needing to bring the car back with half-fuel…” “GPS?”   In the end, much to his disappointment I am sure, we selected only the “upgrade” to a bigger car for AUD$1/day.

Buddah definitely NOT at peace with the colour of our car..

The gent got the last laugh, tho (he probably thot). When we arrived at the designated slot, we found a car of indescribable color. Hot Yellow/Green with a tinge of…well I have no idea. It was dark in Brisbane, but this car fairly glowed. Not quite the colour of Chicago Pickle Relish, but still visible from space. As we reflected on this clear example of rental-car-agent revenge, we realized this was actually THE PERFECT CAR for us. It would stand out in a sea of cars in a car park anywhere in the world. No losing the rental car in plain sight!

Enjoy the Pool

We spent a couple of days in and near Brisbane with friend Kathy Dryland. Kathy’s home is in a suburb…Ormiston…and her spectacular house overlooks the Bay. We spent each evening enjoying cocktails in the dipping-pool and then on the deck until dusk. Which is otherwise known as “mossie time.”

Brisbane, Just before the Flying Foxes Descend

But just before being forced inside, we were treated to a Eastern Aussie sight: Flying Foxes. These are ostensibly bats, but in fact they are the size of a small aircraft. They turn up in large numbers to eat the fruit – so much so that orchards need nets or they’d produce no fruit — in the tree in front of Kathy’s house. And Kathy’s deck is at the same level as the canopy of that tree. So these monsters are CLOSE. If one had a fear of bats, you would be reduced to a cowering lump in the closet!

And if that wasn’t bad enough, if one were the phobic type, there are the spiders in Australia. And I am not referring to a cold and refreshing ice-cream drink, though they have them here, too. There was one in a web sort of over Kathy’s cool, delightful, afternoon-soaking pool. Enjoying a cocktail in this pool, I could swear the temp was made cooler since we were in the substantial shadow of this spider. Kathy assured us that this was a pretty small spider in the Aussie sense. We are NOT phobic, but YIKES.

One day we took the train to Downtown Brisbane, where we had lunch with a friend and business colleague. Brian directed us, after lunch, to an Anzac Memorial Museum, which was quite interesting, and the Macarthur Center, which was closed. Oh well. The latter is in the same building as, and features a recreation of Macarthur’s headquarters in WWII, as he awaited his famous chance to return to the Phillipines. It would have been great to see it…next time!

Our travel to Sydney was uneventful, despite the focus required to stay on the correct (I was reminded that it is INCORRECT to say “wrong”) side of the road. Mostly motorway, with very limited places to make a wrong choice of lanes. Along the way, we stopped for the night in a little town called Gulmarrad, which is near a slightly less-little town Maclean and even bigger little town of Yamba.

Gullmarad Wildlife in the Yard

This area is mainly rural. Sugar is king. Fishing, too. But also tourism. We stayed at an AIRBNB with some vary gracious South African Expat hosts. And we knew RIGHT AWAY that this was going to be a memorable stay.

Their yard was large and sort of in the country. And filled with a half-dozen or so wild Wallabys and a similar number of Kangaroos. Check those off our lists for this trip, along with the huge bats and spiders Kathy had “arranged” for us.

The Wallabys hang around – quite closely, in fact, because they eat scraps of bread and chips. The Kangaroos also hang around, but our hosts discourage close encounters, saying these are not cute, but rather dangerous. Our hosts seemed unmoved/impressed by the wildlife, but for Chicago natives whose only familiarity with wildlife in the back yard is Rats, this was pretty special.

After getting settled, our hosts directed us by backroad shortcut to the beach at Yamba, so we could see what’s up, and then suggested they meet us for dinner at the local pub.

At the pub, I noticed a pub customer, clearly a local, who sort of massaged the Tap as the Guinness was drawn. Sensual, in a way. I asked if this was necessary to coax the Guinness forth. He said it was for good luck. Though he thought Guinness would probably come out with or without his help, he was unwilling to take the chance.   The pub WAS an OTB also, so perhaps this was part of his “system” for winning at the horses?

After dinner, our hosts offered us coffee and a cricket lesson! 

It has long been our experience that even feigning slight interest in whatever sport is local and in season is the best way to really “meet” people (beyond a polite “hello.”). So BRING ON THE CRICKET.

Actually, “lesson” might be understating what transpired…it was more of an indoctrination. Inculcation? Clearly, these were FANS, and there was Cricket on TV and Yankee Asses in the chairs. Our hosts felt a responsibility to edumacate. Overs, LBW (if in the know; otherwise, “Legs Before Wicket”), Bowling, Spin Bowling, Stumps…RPO (Runs per over).

I even noticed similarities with other sports: The Bowler raising his hand in disgust after bowling – hoping to coax an LBW from the umpire. Reminds me of an NBA flop to draw a foul. Or soccer players who drop like they have been shot after minor contact…hoping to draw a red card.  No wonder we like Hockey best — there is an “Embellishment Penalty for such situations and if more than one is called in a game,  the coach is fined.  MAN UP,  I say to the Cricketers and basketballers. 

But what I learned overall is that there cannot be a weirder sport to explain than Baseball (having tried, many times when folks visit the USA), but Cricket is close. Maybe if I rubbed the Guinness Tap it would help?

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