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Monday, August 28, 2017

We’ve come back from the Outback

We’ve finally returned from our outback adventure and vintage train rides – so now we are back in civilization and internet.   So what have we been up to since we last met up?  Here are a few highlights.  First up was our trip on the vintage Gulflander.  This train is a bit of an oddity and is said to go from “nowhere to nowhere”.  The Normanton to Croydon railway line has remained fully isolated from the Queensland Rail Network.  This remote railway line is Heritage listed and the only line in Queensland still measured in miles. 


Sign at the station toilet building

Then we took a gentle boat ride through the Cobbold Gorge.  Quite a unique place due to it’s extreme narrowness, closing in to a tiny two metres wide in some places, with 30m cliffs on either side.  It is fed by several springs keeping the water level constant, allowing boat access even in the “dry” season.  And yes, crocodiles make their home in the waters too.

Beautiful Cobbold Gorge

And we heard the amazing story of Swampy the Braham bull.  This friendly bull with the larger than average spread of horns was a gentle boy and a family favourite, and when he escaped from his paddock the owner went looking for him to bring him safely back.  But there was no sign of Swampy anywhere.   Just as he was about to give up, the owner saw something flashing on the riverbank – it was Swampy, his head and horns being thrashed around on the ground as a croc was trying his darndest to swallow him whole.   Chills ran down the owners spine – most of his beloved Swampy was inside an enormous crocodile, and it was only the bull’s massive spread of horns which stopped him being swallowed down. Quick as a wink, the rancher reached for his knife and slit the croc down his belly, and helped pull Swampy out of the jaws of death.  Once the bull had tottered to his feet and recovered a little strength from this ordeal, he walked slowly back to his paddock with the owner, and never went missing again, enjoying several more years of life on the range.

Swampy the bull

Our two day Savannalander trip was full of fun, and the drivers were young, fit and keen, and loved what they do for a living.  We travelled through the harsh dry country, stopping for morning tea on day one at the rustic outdoor “café”


We ate simple fare at lunch time stopping at isolated country pubs in the middle of nowhere.  The train stopping each week must make a huge difference to their turnover and keep the businesses viable.


There goes a kangaroo

Happy to be riding the rails

And then the train was stopped by Ned Kelly and his gang

Next was a visit to the Undara Lava Tubes.  About 190,000 years ago, a large volcano erupted violently, spewing molten lava over the surrounding landscape. The lava flowed rapidly down a dry riverbed. The top, outer-layer cooled and formed a crust, while the molten lava below drained outwards, leaving behind a series of hollow tubes.  Absolutely amazing!!!

Inside a lava tube

We’ve certainly seen such a lot with our small trip through the outback, and we wouldn’t have missed this rail trip for the world – another thing crossed off our bucket list.  Remember – you are very welcome to log on to our travel blog at www.romanyrambler.com for a fuller version of our holiday travels.

Friday, August 18, 2017

No rest for the Holiday Makers

It’s just as well that we planned a rest day or two between our sightseeing trips or we would have trouble keeping up – especially in these tropical temperatures.  We had a great day out at Kuranda, a lovely little village situated high in the rain forest.  To get there, we joined the huge crowds at the terminal and boarded the Skyrail, which whisked us away over the tops of the trees.  Gliding ever so quietly, although we did get a bit of a fright when the Skyrail stopped dead a couple of times.  Luckily it soon started up again to take us on our way and took advantage of a couple of stops to get out and admire the scenery.  Then  we boarded the Skyrail the final time, and glided the short distance into the pretty little town of Kuranda



We took advantage of the free shuttle bus taking passengers up the steep hill, and went to see what Birdworld had to offer.  Birdworld is in a large open air aviary and has both exotic species, and native birds.  Birds were everywhere and the parrots in particular were getting up close and personal with the visitors, and it wasn’t too long before they decided to jump on our shoulders too.  Nibble, nibble, they went, and we had been warned that they love anything shiny, such as earrings, necklaces, and they even had a go at the shiny cord around my neck holding my sunglasses.  Their specialty, we were told, was chewing the buttons off men’s caps - Robin quickly removed his cap and put it out of their reach.

Parrot on JennyP1050791

Many different parrots at Birdworld

I was thrilled to finally see one of the large native birds, a cassowary up close.  These magnificent birds are covered in a thick “mane” of silky black hair, which doesn’t really look like feathers at all.  With their striking “horn” on top, swinging wattles, strong beak and those dangerous clawed feet, they are certainly an imposing bird.

A magnificent cassowary

Lunch was next, and we enjoyed a BLAT (bacon, lettuce, avocado and tomato in a bread roll), plus a nice cool milkshake and iced coffee at the Frog Café.  Then I heard the man at the next table order crocodile curry – why didn’t I think to give that a try?  A little shopping in the large market, and then we walked down to the railway station for a ride back to Cairns on the Kuranda Scenic railway.

Snapped from the carriage while going around a curve

A fleet of refurbished original red-wooden heritage carriages were coupled behind a 1720 class diesel locomotive, painted in blue and yellow.  This design portrays the legend of the Buda-dgi carpet snake, said to have carved out the Barron Gorge.  Our two hour journey commenced, and we travelled slowly through the rain forest, with points of interest being pointed out. The historic railway line was opened in 1891 after 1500 men armed only with hand picks, shovels, and dynamite laboured long and hard to carve a track through the mountains.   They slowly created 15 tunnels, 93 curves, dozens of bridges and 75 km of track.

Aboard the Kuranda Scenic Railway

Another first for us was to see a group of pelicans in the wild - these were down at the foreshore on a little spit of land.  As the tide kept getting higher, and their little piece of land was slowly getting covered over, they just keep moving closer and closer to the sea wall.  The pelicans were having a great time, bathing in the water, vigorously flapping their wings, and laying their large beaks sideways in the water to wash them.  Others were busy preening their feathers, turning their large beaks this way and that to reach the areas that needed attention. 

We sat and watched the pelicans for ages

My “ever so handy raggy denim bag” with a long shoulder strap has been invaluable.  It can carry all sorts of things, from shopping, to a couple of water bottles which we really need to carry in these rather warm temperatures.  It is so much warmer here in Cairns that at home, where we have much colder winters.  I made this sturdy bag some years ago when we had a trip to UK,  adding some tags with rings attached so that I can clip my wallet and camera case inside with “dog clips” to keep them safe.  This bag has been on several overseas holidays with me, and means I don’t need to bother with a handbag as my wallet is safely attached inside the shopping bag.

Stuffed full of purchases from the markets

Some of my purchases from Kuranda in the bag. Souvenir tea towel, Aussie dried pineapple and mango – just the thing to nibble on, and a packet of coffee, grown and roasted in Australia.  No doubt the dried fruit will soon get gobbled up, but we will leave the coffee sealed to take back home.  Must admit I didn’t realise Australia had a coffee growing industry.  Robin bought much more than me, a new tee shirt and two new caps!

A little shopping at the markets

A wonderful day out, and another thing crossed off our bucket list.  Remember – you are very welcome to log on to our travel blog at www.romanyrambler.com for a fuller version of our holiday travels.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

On the Go in Sunny Cairns

It seems to be all go when you are on holiday, and we enjoyed a full day’s tour through the wonderful Daintree Rainforest.  One of the highlights was the Daintree River Cruise Centre for a cruise.  Our informative guide promised that we would see all sorts of creatures, including crocodiles, and warned us all to keep our hands well inside the boat.

Enjoying our Daintree River Cruise

We saw birds, fish jumping in the water, mangroves lining the river bank, a tiny lime green tree frog, even a snake curled up high on a tree. And crocodiles of course, most were happily basking on the bank in the warmth of the sun, but another sneaky one was watching our boat glide by, with just the top of his head showing in the water.

White heron at the river side

The crocodiles were so well camouflaged on the muddy river banks that they were quite hard to spot at first.

Crocodile snoozing in the river

The Daintree Rainforest is incredibly ancient at over 130 million years old and teems with life, reptiles, frogs and marsupials, bats, butterflies, birds and mammals.  Not to mention all the various species of trees, vines, ferns and mosses.  An amazing place indeed.  The road through the rain forest ended at a beach, we had arrived at Cape Tribulation.  So named by Captain James Cook Cape  after his ship scraped a reef north east of the cape, then later ran aground. The ship stuck fast and was badly damaged, desperate measures being needed to prevent it foundering until it was refloated the next day. Cook recorded "...the north point was named Cape Tribulation because "here begun all our troubles".  Obviously not the only danger around, as this sign at the beach warned all and sundry.  We were amazed to see a group of people in the water, especially as one was an expectant young woman, and we were told that there could possibly be crocodiles in the area too.


Cape Tribulation

Our trip took us past fields of sugar cane, it was harvest time and some was stacked onto rail carriages waiting to be taken to the processing factory.    And our driver stopped so that we could get a photo of a whole lot of wallabies who have made a home on a property and now live with a bunch of polo ponies.  The ponies don’t seem to mind their new flat mates, but I wonder what the owners think of these free loaders chomping away on their pasture?

Sugarcane and wild wallabies

We have also done a half day Cairns City Sights Tour, which gave us a whistle stop visit to the Cairns Museum and Botanic Gardens where we enjoyed a Devonshire Tea.  Also to see some glorious stained glass windows in St Monica’s Cathedral – amazing indeed.  These tell the story of creation and the photo doesn’t really do them justice.

The story of Creation

Then on to a scenic lookout with great views over the city, and finishing the tour at trendy Palm Cove.  It was a great afternoon, and what we really enjoy about these city tours, is that they take you to places you would otherwise not get to.

Overlooking the city of Cairns

Of course, being on holiday, we have enjoyed some great meals out.  One of the places I was very keen to try was Barnacle Bills Seafood Inn.  It was always going to be fish for me, and Robin toyed with the idea of pork belly.  But then we both ordered the same, Karumba, which was “Bill's famous combination of baked fillet of barramundi, topped with prawns, avocado puree and Hollandaise sauce, served with vegetables and potatoes.”  Doesn’t that sound nice, and it tasted great too.


So we’ve certainly been keeping busy – but not too busy to do the laundry though.  The laundry room is just down the stairs and and although driers were also available, what was the point, staying here in the tropics?  Although I have noticed the drier going, seems strange to me.  Each unit is provided with a small clothes airer, and our handy little balcony is just the place to get the washing dry – takes no time at all in these hot temperatures.  That’s our hotel room, up on the third floor, with the laundry drying in the sunshine. 

There’s our hotel room, the one with the washing on the balcony

I haven’t managed to find a quilt shop yet.  Seems there was one fairly close to where we are staying but it is no longer there.  As we have no transport it is difficult to travel further afield.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Arriving in Tropical Cairns

It was a long day indeed, getting up at 1.00am and driving into Wellington Airport.  With our flight to departing at 6.00am, we had a long drive to arrive at the airport by 4.00am.  Our first flight of the morning, from Wellington to Brisbane, had a spot of bother.  Try as they might, the ground crew couldn’t detach the air bridge from the plane.  So we waited as they tried, and tried some more, and finally, after a delay of half an hour, we were good to go.  Luckily the time was made up, as we had a connection to make.  And we made it easily, boarding our second Virgin Air flight of the day.

Landing safely in sunny Cairns, we were really starting to get into holiday mode.  And what’s this, a great big cassowary waiting in the airport terminal to get into some holiday photos.  He was very popular and when he had been snapped by many other tourists, I finally got the chance  to say hello.  These huge birds live in the rain forests , but have been known to attack people with their lethal clawed feet, goodness me, better keep well away from a real one!


Our shuttle bus finally arrived to take us to our hotel, and this is our room, cooled down by a large ceiling fan spinning quietly around.  Cairns is a tropical city, so I presume that ceiling fans are a necessity in this part of the world.  We could hardly wait to take our shoes off and remove our compression socks which we had worn while flying.  No carpet here, just nice cool tiles underfoot.  Robin had donned his shorts as quick as a flash, much too hot to wear long trousers here.  And we have the bonus of a lovely little balcony overlooking the pool.

Our room, and the pool looking down from our balcony

Cairns is a delightful place, and is teaming with tourists.  Although the temperatures are very warm, there is a gentle breeze blowing which is very pleasant and cools things down a little.  We have already seen some interesting sights, such as this spectacled bat nursery in the middle of the city.  And there they were, just hanging about, and making quite a noise indeed. It seems there was quite a controversy about the bats and their trees and some of the large trees had been felled.  But then the council reversed their decision, the remaining trees were saved and the bats protected.  We had never seen anything like it!  Our New Zealand bats are small and secretive.

Spectacled bat nursery in a large fig tree

Another unusual tree was found in the adjacent park, with large hanging fruit, or maybe nuts, about the size and shape of rock melons.  Seems the tree is known as a Cannonball Tree, and originates from South America – never seen one of these trees before.
Cannonball Tree

We went to the “World Famous in Cairns” Night Market and the place was full of people all looking for bargains, or just looking to see what was available.  There was everything from clothes, souvenirs, a Food Hall, and calls of “come and have a massage” as we walked quickly by.  I did buy a pair of jandals (Aussies call them thongs) which I thought would come in handy to slip on after I slip out of my sturdy sandals after a hard day’s sightseeing.  Or even better, wear them when we finally get to have a dip in the hotel pool.  They were very inexpensive, as most things are at the Night Markets, and came with a special message.  “These sandals are one of the Indonesia Earthquake and Tsunami Recovery Programs – buying them shows that you care, thank you very much”.  I’m so pleased I chose these from that particular shop, every little bit helps, doesn’t it.

Helping the tsunami recovery
I didn’t bring any hand stitching to do on this trip, as I thought we would be kept too busy with sightseeing.  But I did pack this bag – who can remember this?

What’s in the bag?

You may remember that last year when we embarked on the Ghan Railway trip, I brought along this bag full of little blocks I had stitched from Australian fabric.  I’m using  the blocks as a memory travel quilt, writing down where we had been, and  places we had stayed.  As I had plenty of “unwritten” blocks left, I decided to use them in this Aussie holiday too. And here is our first day’s travel recorded.

First block of this trip

So that’s what we have been up to so far.  We have a big day ahead of us tomorrow, 11 hours travel, and need to be outside the hotel for an early pickup at 6.30am.  Bright eyed and bushy tailed, as they say, for a great day’s coach trip.  More about that next time.

Remember – you are very welcome to log on to our travel blog at www.romanyrambler.com for a fuller version of our holiday travels. 

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

No rolling the dice this week

I won’t be rolling the dice this week, or next week either.  Why?  Because – exciting news - we won’t be home.  Which means the UFOs get a rest while we are away on holiday.  I’m sure they will sit there quietly in my sewing room till I get home again.

UFOs in waiting

And no, it’s not yet another trip away in the caravan.  We are flying over to Australia for a holiday in tropical Cairns.  Which means a VERY early wake up call and a drive to Wellington Airport to arrive for the check in time at 4.0AM.


You are invited too, come along and check out the blog to see what we will be getting up to.  It involves a couple of train rides, sightseeing trips, and all that sort of thing, so that should be fun.  And….. are there any readers who live in Cairns who want to meet up for a coffee?  Just let me know.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Sew Wot Tuesday

It was a busy old morning with a bit of admin to do – setting the meeting roster for the next few months.  We had to work around holidays and other commitments but we soon had hostesses in place for our fortnightly get-togethers.  And most important – to set the date for our Christmas lunch out.  I really appreciated having a date which worked with our Christmas caravan travel plans, so I didn’t have to miss out.

Show and Tell came thick and fast.  Carol had been circulating patterns for the Moda Sampler Block Shuffle each time we met, and most of the ladies had been doing this challenge.  (Not me, as I told Carol, I’m still trying to tame my many UFOs).  Heather E brought her quilt top along, using fabrics from her stash, and only purchasing the cream  fabric.

Heather E’s Moda Sampler Box Shuffle

Then our hostess for the morning, Moira, brought out her Moda top to show us.

Moira’s version of the Moda Shuffle

Heather B had been busy making fabric books to be put away in her Grandma’s box for the next generation, and they were so cute!  What a great job, bright and colourful, and we all enjoyed looking at the pretty pictures!

Heather B’s fabric books

Moira had a book of a different kind.  She had purchased an adult’s colouring book, traced out a handsome fox and was embroidering him to make a cushion cover.  Rather like the Zen embroidery which two of our group have been working on. 

Moira’s colouring book

Moira had also completed her door stop, made with different wool appliques on each side.  It certainly is rather nice, and she really enjoyed her stitching time on this project. 

Moira’s doorstop

With Christmas coming up, Mary has been busy making an assortment of Christmas table runners.  And she kindly brought along the triange pattern for us if we wish to make our own version.

Mary’s table runners

Sadly, we have lost another of our Sew Wot members.  Rae has been ill for some time and has just passed away.   In fact, Rae was instrumental in getting me to come along and join the Sew Wot group - we had recently moved to Levin and I was looking to join a small friendly “house” group and she contacted me.  She was such a lovely lady, and will be sadly missed indeed.