Sydney 01-08/05/15

The Tulse Hill Tavern 5 (with Tom Weeitch, Brian Hacker and Ken Steadman - the part of John Clout was taken by Boof centre stage! Together again after 47 years!!

Once again, I'm writing at 34,000 feet, somewhere over the vastness of Australia as we fly from Sydney to Bangkok.  Our time in Australia is over and although we are looking forward to the next part of the adventure, we have left all our friends and our great memories behind with much sadness, especially Martin who has a long-standing affection for Australia and Sydney, in particular.

We spent our last week in Australia with Brian and Robyn Hacker, at their home in St Ives, northern Sydney.  Brian is one of Martin's very oldest friends, from school days.  Way back in the sixties, Martin, Brian and three other Likely Lads, Ken, Tom and John, spent many happy hours in the pub planning their exciting futures and the upshot was that Martin emigrated as a £10 Pom to Australia, closely followed by Brian, where they befriended Helen and Liz (not me), two of the nurses next door.  Helen and Liz took trips to England, where they gathered up Ken and Tom and returned to Australia, to live happily ever after.  Martin, of course, went to PNG after three years in Sydney and collected his lasting souvenir (me this time!) there.  The only one not to live in Australia is John, and while he has visited with his wife, Jen, the original five lads have never been together since those days in 1968 in south London.  That was meant to happen last week in the second Grand Reunion of our trip but, unfortunately, John tore his Achilles tendon and was unable to make the journey.  (It confirms thoughts that exercise is bad for one's health).  A great shame and disappointment all round, but they did manage a joint phone call on the evening when Brian and Robyn hosted a splendid curry night and for the rest of the evening and again on the Sunday over lunch, the Fab Four relived their misspent youth.

Our very last day was spent with Brian and Robyn on the Hawkesbury River.  Every day since 1910, a boat has delivered mail bags to various isolated communities up the river.  This has now been turned into a commercial venture by taking passengers as well as still delivering the post, plying them with coffee and lunch and giving an informative commentary.  The Hawkesbury played an important part in the colony's early development, as a route to more fertile agricultural land, so as well as fabulous scenery (high sandstone cliffs covered with dense bush), the history is interesting too.  Book lovers - check out "The Secret River" and "Sarah Thornhill" by Kate Grenville.  After a very mixed Easter weekend, weather-wise, it was a beautiful morning, with a dramatic storm sweeping in just as we got to the end.  A perfect end to four wonderful months.

Apart from those social get-togethers, and another lovely farewell meal with John Piccles, Alison Pert and Rod Sims, we had a quiet week in St Ives.  We've done the sight-seeing, caught up with all the friends, done the washing and ironing and sent home seven parcels of books, warm clothes and various bits and pieces accumulated along the way.  We are now travelling relatively light and hope to remain that way around Asia.  To all of you who shared your homes or meals with us over the past few months, thank you again for making us feel so welcome.  Keep your promises to come and see us in Devon!  As I said, we are sad to leave, but already have a short list of things we want to do on our next visit. 

Meanwhile, we have some exciting weeks ahead of us, then home. Dare I say it?  I'm beginning to look forward to getting home!

A farewell dinner with John, Rod and Alison.

Railway across the Hawkesbury River north of Sydney.

Delivering the mail at Dangar Island on the Hawkesbury.

Can you see an eagle perched on the rock? The boat's skipper said he could!

Last day in Australia on the beautiful Hawkesbury River with Brian and Rob.

Stunning Hawkesbury River scenery.