Well, boys and girls, after three whole months in the land Down Under, it’s time for us to be moving on.
Remember how our original plans were to spend January through March in New Zealand and not even make an appearance in Australia? And then how we completely ditched N.Z.for Oz? All is not lost. We’re heading to New Zealand today!
In an hour’s time, we’ll be boarding a plane to Auckland. Despite the Swedeheart and I having met on the country’s South Island, we’ll be spending our entire month-long stay on the North Island.
First, we’ll be two nights in the capital with friends of the Swedeheart’s family. Then we’ll head north to an area called the Bay of Islands.
This was one of the Swedeheart’s favorite spots during his last trip, so he’s excited to return. If you look up images of the Bay of Islands, you’ll have an idea why.
Since leaving Noosa in the wake of ex Cyclone Debbie nine days ago, I’ve enjoyed my last days in Australia with my penpal and her family up in Townsville.
The whole concept of having a penpal is mostly lost in this day and age of instantaneous global communication, but when we were kids, writing to someone in another part of the world was still fairly common.
Many people have said to me, “Oh yeah, I had a penpal once. I wonder whatever happened to her.” Against the odds, though, Elizabeth and I somehow managed to stay in touch all these nearly 30-odd years.
During my first trip to Australia seven years ago, we finally met in person and got to know one another beyond the surface of a pen-and-paper relationship. I suppose we’re pretty lucky that we also get along in person.
This time around, I managed to feel at home much more quickly which left ample time to chat and catch up. I also got to know her three kids, one of whom didn’t yet exist during my last visit, and their dog Jedi, the most energetic Jack Russell Terrier I’ve ever encountered.
The timing of my visit also coincided with the kids’ three-week Easter holiday, so we spent some of our time sightseeing. Highlights included visiting Australia’s highest single-drop waterfall and Townsville’s Jezzine Barracks, site of a WWII memorial dedicated to U.S. and Aussie troops.
A quick stop at the small sugar cane production town of Lucinda allowed me to see the longest service jetty in the Southern Hemisphere. At 5.76km long, it transports sugar far enough away from shore for Panamax ships to be loaded with cargo.
We also hung around at their home. Their middle kiddo is learning the piano, so I put my musical skills to good use by giving him some pointers. I also got to watch their caravan refurbishing project progress and even left my mark by helping with some of the painting.
And when the Swedeheart returned a few days ago from his two weeks of conferences in Europe, we all visited the town’s Great Barrier Reef aquarium, a place I visited last time and still enjoyed a second time around.
I never thought I’d see Elizabeth again so soon. Who knows when we’ll meet next time. Until then, we’ve got email and Skype to fill the gap.