Trim in Sydney and Cairo

No, not fit. Matthew Flinders’ cat. 


Heralded as the first person to correctly map out Australia and identify it as a continent, Lt. Flinders had a short but well-lived life. Trim, a black cat with white paws, was his loyal companion till the end. 

Lt. Flinders left his wife of three months to pursue adventures in the Navy and didn’t see her till nine years after. During this time, he did many things for Australia, but not so much for his wife. He finally returned and had a daughter with his wife. The daughter married into the Petrie family and went on to have a son, William Petrie. 

Sir William Petrie became a famed Egyptologist who had a student named Howard Carter. Yes, the same one who discovered King Tut’s tomb. 

Six degrees of separation. How interesting. 

I learnt about Lt. Flinders after a brief lesson in Aussie history by a volunteer at the State Library of NSW. I had time to burn  so I hopped over for the tour – I was glad I did! 

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Catching Rainbows Down Under

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We are homeward bound after a surprisingly delightful, pleasantly cold but unfortunately short vacation in Western Australia.

This was over our National Day holidays – the Government declared an extra day of holiday so its citizens could participate in the celebratory events and festivities especially organized, leading up to the big day.

We didn’t. This was a rare long weekend break and we ran head first at the chance to travel. Some patriotism. Heh. But we were not alone. The airport was bustling with happy, chatty locals flying off to destinations nearby to spend the Golden Jubilee Weekend.

We ended up going down south in Western Australia, visiting fruit orchards, wineries, catching rainbows and having Devonshire Tea. And visiting my 25-years-long BFF.

There is nothing like seeing each other after a long while and be able to easily pick up where you left off; Be able to say what you think and sometimes communicate without talking. Having good old friends you’ve known for more than half your life is one of life’s many wonderful gifts.

There are many things to see and do around the Margaret River region. Google it and a whole list appears – from touristy to the ones a little harder to find. But there are places worth taking a second look:

A. Wonky Windmill Farm
Lemonades do grow on trees – a genetically modified fruit from grafting the seeds of a lemon and an orange. This farm has about 10 of such trees, rows of mandarins and navels as well as macadamia nuts. This farm is also about the only one left that still allows visitors to pick their own fruit at AUD5 per kilo. The proprietors were nice too, which made the experience even more memorable.

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B. Cape Lavender Tearoom
They sold their farm some years back but kept their seemingly lucrative retail and tearoom businesses. Marvellous lavender scones and clotted cream at AUD10, with coffee or tea.

C. Bunbury Farmers’ Market
Indoor and very well-stocked with absolutely fresh produce, gourmet and organic items. They have tasting stations set up too, and serve really generous portions. You can purchase food from there and sit out front at the little cafe, and enjoy the spoils of your find with a hot latte. Fabulous.

I felt bad about missing the 50th birthday bash but I truly enjoyed myself this weekend. I would do it all over again.

Guilty pleasures. Whoever coined the term is a right genius.

Afternote:
On the morning of 9th August, while driving towards Fremantle, we dutifully sang Majulah Singapura and recited our pledge.

You Get Everything in Western Australia

One of the things I love about Australia is its diversity. Adventures from the ocean to the desert, and from the ground up to the sky are to be had if one is sufficiently courageous. From nature to wildlife to produce, they are a continent isolated and yet has so much to offer and is steadfastly self-sufficient.

Perth was the first city I visited in Australia. I was eight. How I adored the koalas, kangaroos and wallabies, and fed them till they ran off. It was also where I lost my first blue scarf jumping around while Mom shopped in Tudor Court. My parents, avid travellers themselves, fell in love with Australia and made it a point to go back there almost every year. And so began our trysts with the cities along the east and west coasts, including Tasmania.

It was always the Southern half though. Even when I continued to wander around in Australia, I’ve never ventured to its Northern Territories. Maybe someday that will change, but it seemed like there was just more to do if you were South-bound.

One of our trips to Western Australia brought us to Walpole, a 4.5 hours drive south of Perth, to the Valley where Giant Red Tingle Trees rest. Famous for its 400 year old heritage, massive and gnarled trunks, the trees in this national park were quite a sight. Some of the trunks had holes and were roomy enough to build little houses, albeit for hobbits.  It is a tranquil little place of green and brown, a restful walk amongst the world’s tallest trees.

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South of Perth, in Karri Valley Resort, was also the one time I saw a kookaburra up close. It flew towards us and perched itself on the balcony railings to steal a share of the feed we were giving to visiting parrots. That bird was large; It was as long as a man’s forearm and as wide as Schwarzenegger’s biceps. When it flew in, you could feel a gust of wind swoosh by. And it had a nasty-looking long beak with which to stick into a feed-laden palm. Oh mighty bird!! We backed away so fast we left the box of feed outside. (On second thought, it was OUR breakfast cereal, not feed. Hah, we eat the same things afterall.) With the glass door quickly pulled shut lest it decides to come in and live with us, we huddled behind and watched it eat. Suffice to say, we were fascinated but a little freaked out by that very forward bird.

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If you go to Margaret River, chances are that you would visit the cheese, wine, chocolate and olive oil factories. On the way there and back, you’d probably pass by lavender and animal farms; apple, pear, blueberry, strawberry orchards, and local markets selling items from freshly harvested vegetables to handicrafts to aromatherapy needs. A quick diversion would bring you up to Mount Barker to see wildflowers. If you went all the way south to Albany, you could go diving in the really choppy waters.

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You couldn’t get more diverse than this. 🙂 Our last trip there was in 2008. Perhaps it is time to consider another, but North.