OUR COUNTRY’S GOOD – Sydney, AUS. and Waiheke, NZ.
At some point, overnight on the flight from Seoul, we must have crossed the equator. Unlike cruise ships, this major event in people’s lives is not marked, in any way shape or form. I would have thought, for first timers, like us, the hostesses and crew would have conga’d the length of the plane blowing all manner of party blowers and generally welcoming us to the club. But no, nothing. Just deep sleep. Thanks Asiana Airways!!
Sydney in two days was simply stupid. And to include the Blue Mountains was even more ridiculous. However, in true Ozzie style, because we were in the company of two of them, we did it and with some style. Thank you Kate and Cath for the whirlwind tour.
Sydney was quite special for us both. My love of the play, Our Country’s Good, was fuelled with seductive delight as we stumbled upon all manner of names of streets, road, places, to be found in Wertenbaker’s contemporary classic. The fact that all those years ago when it was just a rocky inlet, Captain Arthur Phillip landed with his cargo of convicts, on 11 ships, after months of a treacherous voyage from England, and here we were standing on the very same spot(s). The spot where Phillip planted the English flag for the first time was a tad overwhelming, but I contained myself among the other ‘walkers” who just wouldn’t understand. Campbell’s Cove, as it is now, at the base of the bay bridge, is just a wonderful open space allowing full view of the opera house across the bay. Did the intellectual Captain Phillip or the drunken Campbell ever imagine that such a majestic piece of architecture would dominate the landscape as they stood back and surveyed the new scenery that greeted him. This was re-living history. Touching the very anchor of the Sirius was a brief encounter. Again, intentionally so. Our walk took us to The Rocks, an affectionate term given to the trendy area of arts and craft, coffee shops and restaurants, that was once, indeed the home to all the convicts. The names resonated throughout our two hour stroll, except for that of SIDEWAY, who, in Keneally’s novel, The Playmaker, actually opened the first theatre in Sydney. Our guide had not heard the name previously which lead me to doubt either her knowledge, as an immigrant guide, working the tourists, or indeed my romantic notion that he did actually exist. I like to think he did. Especially after seeing him brought to life so theatrically by Phil Mace, in our production. We kept seeing the characters at every turn, with the faces of the cast. It was magical. Both the Sydney visit and of course the production.
The Blue Mountains was a whole new ball game, as they say. A spectacular display of nature in the raw, much like it would have been when the Sirius first landed way back in 1788. We have taken to walking, on our journey, as the simplest and easiest form of exercise. Not only that, but the related health issues are of obvious benefit. Furthermore, the pace that one travels is slow enough to gather information, take photographs, talk and share stories and moments. In short, walking is great. However, what we did, in the The Blue Mountains was more of a trek, or perhaps even a hike – a long hike! With only one and half knees and a broken toe, I think i did OK. It is a rugged region west of Sydney, known for dramatic scenery encompassing steep cliffs, eucalyptus forests, waterfalls and villages. Echo Point affords views of the storied Three Sisters sandstone rock formation. The view was well worth the trek, until you realise the need to go back! Our departure from Sydney was filled with a yearning to return. Our Country’s Good sits comfortably in the psyche.
New Zealand next. So excited to be seeing our friends of 36 years, once more. Christine and David moved, with their two children, to New Zealand some 17 years ago. In that time they have established themselves as the regions premier goldsmiths. We proudly sport both wedding and engagement rings fashioned by Christine. Her art in gold and other precious metals is quite unique. Each piece embraces its own narrative, told through the shapes, materials and rhythms created by the artist, Christine.
On an island, Waiheke (which means “cascading waters”) in the bay, off Auckland, they have built their own castle on a cloud. Well its not really a castle and its not on a cloud but when you stand in the lounge, come kitchen, come dining room, come snug, and look through floor to high ceiling windows and doors and gaze out over the sea at Auckland in the far distance, it feels like being in a castle on a cloud. We instantly felt at home.
This island has no traffic lights, numerous coffee shops, tasty restaurants, deserted beaches, delightful wineries, a couple of schools, really friendly people except for the “man in the hat” who chalks the time on the wheels of cars who are parked quite legally in bays on the road side. But he’ll be back to book you if you go into illegal, trust me. I know.
We took time to speed our way around the island, by car. It didn’t take long. It is a magical place and cannot wait to return for our final week. Island life appears idyllic. Finding new places to walk, be it the bush or the beach, is easy. There are walks galore, and each one very very special. I have been walking in borrowed shoes too and have become a Croc convert.
At home, Jo would be digging the weeds or planting new seeds, plants and flowers. I would be making furniture for the garden, erecting a gazebo and mending the fences. Well, like I said earlier, we felt instantly at home. Jo took to the garden and drive to help David and Christine catch up with these neglected areas. David threw me a hammer and saw to make a bush house for 7 year old Robert. Together, David, Robert and I took a week to design and build the first and best bush house I have ever built. Nestling deep in their 4 acre plot, found only by following a narrow trail through the bush from the back garden, it stands in a clearing which is also home to a swinging horse and large seat-log. With perspex roof, windows and two perspex walls, the house is big enough for both their “looked-after” children, Robert and Amara. The other walls are solid but for random two-inch holes drilled for even more light in the back wall and an opening in the front as the door. This is real famous five stuff. The look on their faces as they were introduced to the new bush house was just lovely. It matched the look on David’s and my face as we shook hands upon completion. It was a look of amazement!
Cascading Waters has drenched us in a torrent of positive charm. The appetite to return for more has been whetted.
Off to North and South Islands.