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Victoria – Australia Trip Part 1


Raucous birds every morning.
Vast sprawling cities and busy traffic.
Old model Holdens and Falcon cars, long gone from NZ roads.
Mostly empty highways in interior, busy along the coasts.
Dead kangaroos on the highways.
Bumpy bitumen on many highways.
Yellow clay side roads off highways
Quick little eye-hovering flies in the outback.
Gum trees and more gum trees, millions and millions of them.
Vivid green wheat fields, and yellow Canola fields, stretching flat for kilometres on end.
Flat, orange-brown scenery stretching in every direction as far as the eye can see in the outback, and clear blue sky overhead. Gives an exhilarating sense of freedom.
Skilled and courteous drivers.
Limited, rather drab varieties of plant life.

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Mon 16 Aug

Early morning drive to Hamilton airport

Marie and I get out of bed at 4 am and drive off from Tauranga at 4-30 am in the dark. I’m surprised how much traffic there is on the road, especially trucks.
We arrive at Hamilton airport about 6 am. I took the unfamiliar back way, via Mystery Creek as it was quicker. I leave Marie’s car in the long term outdoor airport car park ($48 for two weeks).
We check in our luggage and pay the airport departure tax ($25 each). Customs isn’t open yet so we sit in the lounge and watch lady’s cycling Olympics on TV. I also do my usual daily morning scripture reading. Time must have gone by quickly for we are surprised to hear our names called over the intercom to go immediately to customs.
Bit of a rush, but I feel relaxed once we are on the plane. The days leading up to this trip have been a bit stressful, as I’ve had to tie up a lot of loose business ends. The plane is only half full.

The flight

Marie handles the take off very well. She usually finds it scary. This trip is going to take four hours to Melbourne. I notice in the flight magazine that its 20 minutes quicker flying from OZ to NZ, than from NZ to OZ. Is it downhill or something? I didn’t think prevailing winds would make that much difference.
The plane is smooth and quiet, not full of vibration and noisy like the kind Raymond and I flew in earlier this year. Marie and I were given seats right at the back, but we soon shift seats as a young man next to us in the inside window seat gets in and out several times, and Marie saw that there were three vacant seats behind us.
The new seats have a double window. As always, the early morning sun shining on top of the white fluffy clouds looks spectacular. There are no free food or drinks on Freedom Air flights now, you pay the stewardesses instead. Most of the drinks and snacks are about $2.

Victorian lakes and snow

After about three hours the cloud clears and we begin flying over the Australian lower eastern coastland of Victoria. I am surprised to see numerous lakes stretching all the way down the coast. I consult my OZ road map and find that it is called the Gypsum Lakes region.
Further on, overland towards Melbourne, I see lots of snow and ice on the tops of the dark, green-grey hills, and dense mist down in the valleys. To the north I can see snow covered peaks of a high mountain range jutting up through the mist.
For the last quarter hour, as we coast down to Melbourne, losing height, the plane becomes quiet and peaceful.

Patricia takes us home to her house

We land at Melbourne airport to a clear, sunny cool morning, 8°C. Marie found some marijuana plants discarded in the airport lady’s toilet area. She did not recognise them but another lady in there did.
We go through customs and out into the reception area and wait for my cousin Gerrard to turn up.
After about 15 minutes Patricia appears. She said that Gerrard and Linda had been called away on an urgent trucking job.
As you had told me Mum, Patricia, aged 64 has not changed much at all, apart from being plump. With her unlined skin and black hair she could pass for 44. She told be that had she not seen me in the photo I sent her by email she would not have recognised me. Not very flattering.
Last time we visited Patricia she drove a Rolls Royce. This time, after separating from her husband, she is driving a humble Ford Laser. I like Patricia and her lively personality. She hardly ever stops talking however.
Patricia drives us to her home, a little way out of the city through endless Melbourne suburbs and traffic lights. It takes us an hour and a half. Melbourne is an immense sprawled out city in area about four Aucklands side by side. It is the biggest city in the world area wise, but not in population. It has about 3 million people. Sydney and Brisbane/Gold Coast cover a similar area in size. Very easy to get lost, even with a road map. Adelaide is more compact. The suburbs of Melbourne look similar to Auckland suburbs.
Patricia lives in Woori Yellah, a town of about 2000 in a hilly, grape growing region just out of Melbourne, to the east. She has a small, two bedroom weatherboard house on a medium size (by OZ standards) section. The house is very cold when we arrive, but she soon lights the fire. I take a picture of her kneeling in front of the fireplace. She says, “That’s the first time anybody’s caught me kneeling.” She later claimed to be an atheist, saying, “Nobody really knows if there is a God, and I don’t think there is one.” I told her that I think it takes more faith to not believe in a God than to believe.

The Bible

I phone the Bible printers, who are located in a town about 150 kms to the north, to see how they are getting along. Evidently, as I suspected, the map text problem was merely a fault with their proofing printer. However they now say that the black photo settings are not as they should be. I told them that I had set them in PhotoShop to the exact figures they had given me. They seemed surprised at this and said they would see what they could do. It can’t be too much of a problem as the photos looked fine in the proofs they had sent me in Tauranga.

Miracle of Helen Lapp’s photo

We have sandwiches for lunch and then Patricia decides to bring out her box of photos, about 150 of them.
Now before we left on our holiday, Dad had asked us to see if we could possibly locate an old flame of his in Adelaide, by the name of Helen Lapp. Dad used to write to her when he was single, but had never actually met her. She would have been about 17. She was an intellectual Catholic activist (she had even written to Hitler) and a friend of Aunty Elma. They wrote regularly until she married a man in Australia nicknamed ‘Robbity Robb.’ If she is still alive today she would be about 84.
Back in Tauranga Marie and I had used the internet to search in all the Australian phone directories for a Lapp family, to try and get some information, but there were only two Lapps listed, and they were in Sydney where we weren’t going. There were none at all in Adelaide. So I decided it was a lost cause. Besides that, I didn’t think Mum wouldn’t be too enthusiastic about the whole project.
I had mentioned the name of Helen Lapp to Patricia in the car on the way from the airport, but she said that she had not heard it before. Now however, as Patricia showed us her photos, Marie in exasperation says, “Patricia, why don’t you write on the back of these photos who they are? Look, none of them have anything on them at all.”
Patricia thumbs through a few of the photos and picks up one and says, “This one has. It says Helen Lapp.” Then all three of say in unison, “Helen Lapp!” Sure enough, there she was, walking down the streets of Adelaide with Aunty Elma in 1936. Amazing!
We calculate that she would have been about 17 or 18 at the time, and Aunty Elma about 23. What a coincidence, or should I say, an answer to a prayer.
Patricia says that Dad can have the photo.
There are lots of other interesting photos, some of Dad and Grandad so I take some digital photos of them.

Patricia’s section

After that I decide to have an explore outside. There are lots of squawking parrots and cooing doves in the gum trees at end of the semi-rural street. Raucous birds were to become a common feature of this holiday, especially first thing in the mornings.
Patricia’s garden has got away from her. When we first arrived I saw grass growing from her spouting, so I spend the next hour or so cleaning them out as best I can. The gunk came out in long black fibrous sausages. However I could only access half the spouting due to the shortness of the ladder.

Patricia’s business

Patricia is retired and gets the old age pension, but still runs a little business. She owns about 12 drink machines and has to go and fill them up from time to time. She buys the drinks from supermarkets when they are on special.
However her happiest job she told me, Kathleen, was when she was in real estate, selling houses. She still has a quick intelligent mind and a good memory, probably honed by bridge. She plays it regularly and goes away on tournaments.

No-advertisements TV

For tea we have a chicken casserole, and ice cream and peaches for dessert. Afterward we sit and watch the State owned, no-advertisements TV. Olympics mainly, with the same OZ successes shown over and over. You would think there were no other countries competing. NZ is never mentioned. Another story hounded to death is the alleged lying by Prime Minister Howard about hostage children being thrown in the water years ago.
Frosts forecast for tonight, fog inland also. Marie goes to bed early. Patricia and I watch a documentary about an Australian man who had become so mentally disturbed during a marriage separation that he killed his children. Home video clips of him playing with his children in happier days brought home the human tragedy of it.

Tuesday 17 Aug

Patricia’s area of Woori Yellah

Cold night last night. Dropped to 0°C. Had to snuggle up to Marie to keep warm. I arise about 7-30 am, sunny day. I read my scriptures and then go out for a cold 5 km walk up through the rural road at the end of Patricia’s street, back down along the highway, and through the hilly township of Woori Yellah. I see cooing doves, squawking grey parrots swooping around the gum trees, a goat, fenced in barking dogs, dogs being walked on the footpaths by women, adult school wardens dressed in white controlling pedestrian crossings, and of course, green grass and hundreds of gum trees.
I feel hungry when I get back, and although I don’t normally have breakfast, I have some toast, jam and milk. (I put on four kilos over the next two weeks.)
Later this morning Patricia takes us for a drive around the area, mostly following the Yarra river which flows into Melbourne. We see many hills, valleys, gum tree forests and vineyards. Also several other small towns like Patricia’s. We stop for a few walks in some of the towns and then have lunch in a town called Lilli. Marie is not feeling too good today, weak and dizzy. This always seems to happen in the early days of a holiday. When it occurred to me that she had not eaten anything sweet today, I suggested she did so. She ate a chocolate cake of some sort and soon began to feel better. Marie and Patricia went shopping in a craft shop while I sat in the car in the warm sunshine and read.

Train ride into Melbourne

Then we parked Patricia’s car at the Lilli railway station and caught the train into Melbourne to pick up our rental car and also to have a meal this evening with Patricia’s family and my cousin Gerrard.
The train ticket system is fully automated. Marie had some difficulty but a teenage girl came and pushed the buttons for her. You actually put in notes of money to the machine which is on the station platform. The $2.20 each ticket cost seemed cheap for a 50 minute train ride. The train was the whirring electric type, like the Wellington units and stopped at every station, about twenty of them. An electronic woman’s voice announced each station as we came to it. Many well dressed school students got on and off the train, the boys all wearing ties.
As we neared the centre of Melbourne I could see skyscrapers looming in the distance and we passed many very old, ornate, Oliver Twist type English-looking mansions, complete with numerous chimney pots.
Soon we were gliding through the heart of the city, with tall office buildings towering all around and even some Casino for those who like playing, although there are also other options like the landbased casinos in New Zealand which you can find online. We got off the train at the huge, crowded, central railway station and had to put our tickets in a slot to get out of a turnstile. Patricia’s ticket worked OK, but both Marie and mine were rejected. Evidently the teenage girl had pushed the wrong buttons, and we paid for only one sector instead of three. Patricia’s had used her pensioner’s pass card so she was OK. It was a bit embarrassing, but Marie pleaded ignorance to a nattily dressed railway attendant in an Ozzie hat and he let us through.

Downtown Melbourne city

We then walked up one of the main streets of Melbourne, which looked rather like Lambton Quay in Wellington. There were trams everywhere, all different kinds and colours. Cars are banned from this part of the city.
Patricia bought me and herself a soft ice cream from Hungry Jacks. They cost just 40c each, an attraction to get you into the place. As we continued to walk along, licking, Marie was seduced downstairs into a bargain basement type shop that had a loud speaker playing a recording constantly exhorting people to go downstairs and see the bargains. She bought some gold shoes. Patrica and I weren’t allowed into the shop until we had finished our ice creams.
We then carried on walking up the street, slightly uphill. There were lots of young people about, like in all large cities, many of them smoking. There was also a cold wind blowing, but the sun was shining and the sky still blue and clear.
Soon we were out of the trams-only area and the traffic became busy and noisy. Still lots of trams however, and the cars have to give way to trams at all times.

We pick up our rental car

We eventually found the Avis car rental place and picked up our car, a silver automatic Holden Astra. A 2004 model with only 4000 kms on the speedo. The Avis girl tried hard to talk me into taking out extra insurance which cuts the accident excess down from $2500 to $600. But it costs $20 a day, an extra $200. Probably quite profitable for Avis. They also loaned me a Melbourne and Brisbane street map book, both as thick as large telephone directories. Both proved to be invaluable.

Our restaurant evening with Patricia’s children and Gerrard’s family

It was now about 5 pm. Our restaurant booking with Patricia’s children and Gerrard and his family was at 7 pm, so I drove around the city sightseeing with Patrica as our navigator. She was not very familiar with this part of Melbourne. Marie seemed a bit on edge in the heavy traffic and unfamiliar surroundings and Patricia accused her of being a backseat driver.
Being rush hour we were held up a lot. We did see an unusual church which Patrica said was Lebanese Marionite. So I stopped and took a photo.
The rental car is very firm riding in the suspension and picks up all the bumps. Marie’s Toyota Starlet is much softer. It has plenty of get up and go however, but the motor is a bit harsh. Holden Astra’s are based on a European model, so the indicators and wipers are on the opposite sides of the steering wheel.
The restaurant is called the Rajah of India and is evidently a favourite of Patricia’s children. It seems to have once been an old house. It’s run by two polite Indian men and they serve only curry or hot pepper meals.
I order prawns and after waiting forever do not get many. They did however put loads of flat bread on the table.

Ashley and Jamie, Patricia’s children

It was good to meet Patricia’s son Ashley and his quiet partner Penny. Ashley reminded me a bit of Michael. He drives a restored older model, red Alfa Romeo, which he took us out to see. He also told me that he had recently joined a religious group of some sort. I didn’t get the chance to speak further with him about this, though I would have liked to do so.
Patricia’s daughter Jamie shares the same birthday (26th Jan) with Harmony, but is a year older. She has the same outgoing personality as Harmony, and also like Harmony is a bit of a butterfly.

Gerrard and his family, Linda, Sara and Rochelle

Gerrard brought his two girls along, the confident, cheerful Sara (about 15), and the quieter Rochelle, about 13.
His cheerful partner Linda was there too. I like Linda. She is from Dunedin and currently helps him drive his trucks interstate, delivering caravans. Gerrard lost a foot in an accident a few years ago and hopes to get compensation soon.
Gerrard is inclined to exaggerate risks, and he really went to town in describing a lawless aboriginal town we had to pass through in the outback, called Wilcannia. He once had a cellphone stolen from his truck there and had to pay $150 ransom to get it back. He said to Marie and I, “Don’t stop whatever you do! Even when they run out in front of you.” I asked him why they did that. He said, “I don’t know, they just do. They all stand along the main street. You’ll see them all there.” He really freaked Marie out. She has such a vivid imagination in fearful matters.
It has been a pleasant evening, apart from the food which is too spicy hot for me. Marie pays for us and Patrica. My costs on this holiday are the airfares and rental car, hers the food and accommodation.

Back to Patricia’s house

It’s a long drive home tonight, through the city to Patricia’s house. Endless motorways and traffic lights. Takes well over an hour. I let Patrica out at the railway station at Lilli where she has left her car and then we follow her the rest of the way home. I see there is a thermometer in the rental car that measures outside temperature. It reads 3°C and the clock 12:00 AM.
Off to bed. Patricia’s female tabby cat hops into bed with us. Patrica calls it a slut the way it befriends visitors to her house and ignores her.

Wednesday 18th August

Off to Adelaide

Very cold again last night. We are heading off towards Adelaide today.
Marie had bad dreams in the night, dreaming of the Aboriginals in Willcania. She doesn’t feel at all well today, and is weak and wobbly. I try my best to reason with her this morning saying that hundreds of people drive through the town every day, and nobody has ever been hurt yet. But she wants me to drive to Brisbane a different way. I tell her there is no other way from Adelaide without taking days longer.
I want to see the Mormon Temple and the downtown Melbourne Arts and river port area before leaving the city. I decide we should drive through the outskirts of Melbourne to get away from the boring motorways and see the countryside.
Patrica gives me some directions and we thank her and say goodbye and drive off. Her directions don’t seem to workout. However we have a lovely drive through a forest park. Huge gum trees and winding roads and we also drive through many semi-rural areas, all the time heading for downtown Melbourne. I need to stop from time to time to consult the road map book. Temperature mostly around 4°C.

Bible OK now

We have lunch in a Target Mall. I also spoke there again with the McPhersons Bible Printers using Marie’s cellphone. I was relieved to hear that they have now resolved the photo problem. Evidently they had sent me slightly incorrect dot point settings for the maximum black settings of the photos. These need to less black than normal, more a dark grey due the thinness of Bible paper, so there will not be too much ‘see through’ on the reverse of a page with a photo on. They said they had spent several hours fixing this, but would not be charging me extra as they had contributed to the fault by instructing me wrongly. There is now no need to visit them, which is just as well, as they are about a four hour drive away. Feel quite relieved.

We visit the beautiful Melbourne Temple

After lunch we stop and visit the beautiful Melbourne Temple. As we walk through the doors, the man at the desk says that we are an answer to his prayer as they need a ‘witness couple’ for the next session. I am willing, but Marie is still shaky and has to explain that she does not feel up to it. I offer to give her a healing blessing but she declines. Her face looks pale and puffy.
The interior of the Temple is beautiful and elegant. The exterior is glossy marble. We then walk over to the nearby church building and wander through it. We meet some lively women there. We also find the Family History Centre downstairs and visit with them for about an hour. Marie is able to help one of the librarians sort out a PAF problem for a dignified old Aussie gentleman. PAF is a popular computer program for keeping track of genealogy.

We leave Melbourne

My hope of stopping in downtown Melbourne and walking along the park-like river banks and port area was not to be. Marie didn’t feel up to it, nor seem very interested. Besides this, the downtown city streets were busy and confusing, and there was nowhere I could stop and consult the roadmap book, except at traffic lights. The full width of the roads are used and you just have to keep moving.
So as time was getting on, I give up and decide to keep moving and get out of the city and begin the long drive west along the coast towards Adelaide, a two day drive. I decide at this point that it’s hopeless to try and explore downtown areas of large cities by car without a navigator with local knowledge.
We need to cross the river to leave Melbourne, so I see a busy river bridge and drive across. It was rather like crossing the Auckland Harbour bridge, but not as long. This led onto a huge, multilane motorway with thousands of cars and trucks leaving and coming into Melbourne. Very noisy. So we drive at 110 kph toward the city of Geelong on the other side of the harbour.

City of Geelong

Geelong is a city of about 200,000. It appears a bit run down compared to Melbourne. I stop and visit the old Geelong Jail, but the interior is only open on weekends. Marie seems to be feeling better. She does some shopping.

The Victorian open roads and countryside

We leave the city of Geelong and begin driving through NZ-like farm land with lots of rocks. Even many of the farm fences are made of rocks. Green paddocks, sheep and cows. The roads are good, no signs of cracking up. We drive over both coarse chip and smooth road surfaces. The Astra wasn’t too noisy on the coarse chip. There are also vibration strips along the road edges to warn you if you doze off. The no passing lines are white not yellow. As I think about it, there does not seem to be much point in painting them yellow, and must be more costly.
Every km or so there are huge signs on the side of the highways warning of the dangers of driving when drowsy such as, “Sleepy drivers die.” “Take a 10 minute power nap.” “Take a break every 2 hours.” The older I get the more convinced I am that drowsiness is a major cause of fatal road accidents and needs to be addressed forcefully in NZ. Good to see Victoria taking a lead here.
It’s now mid afternoon and the temperature has increased to 13.5°C. Teresa rings Marie with some queries on the business. She has had stacks of orders. Teresa is such a good worker and very reliable. It is comforting to know she is in charge.

The Rotorua-like Colar volcanic area

We next arrive at Colar, a town of about 10,000 people. There’s a lake here about the size of Lake Rotorua. We detour to have a look but it has no scenic beauty.
This whole area is volcanic like Rotorua and there are many other smaller lakes. TV aerials on the houses are all extremely high. We tune into a local FM radio station and hear a delightful program of Bible stories and songs. Seems out of character for the rather materialistic Aussies. As we drive on, with the low setting sun enhancing the pastoral scenes on either side of the road, I feel a great sense of freedom and adventure. I just love exploring new places.

We stay the night at Napier-like Warranbool

We eventually arrive at Warranbool at dusk. Warranbool is a Napier-like town on the south coast of Victoria with a population of around 30,000. We choose a motel called City Heart Motel, just off the main road to lessen the traffic noise. Cost is $78 for the night. It’s a bit small but OK. The fragrant smell of an electric insect spray release is a bit overpowering, so I turn it off. We then walk downtown in the dark and buy some fish and chips for tea. We have to wait a long time for some reason. We take them back to the motel. The fish pieces are huge, and very tasty. The chips are nice also.
Marie then had a shower and went to bed early and fell asleep instantly. She is still worried sick about “the Abos” in Wilcannia.
I sit up and plan tomorrows activities and driving. I enjoy doing this. Tomorrow we cross the border into South Australia and start heading north to warmer temperatures. Exciting!

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