Monday, January 27

Domestic journeys

It's fascinating how expectations shift over time.  A decade ago I would have consider a flight to Melbourne a bit of an adventure.  Travelling overseas, even across Tasman, more than once a year was a lofty ambition.  Roll the clock forward and such excursions have become a relatively normal part of life. Since August, I've flown to Melbourne at least ten times for work, crossed the Tasman twice and driven to Tasmania.
It's therefore somewhat ironic that the array of flights scheduled in diary for the next few months seems rather mundane. I have six flights already booked with more to come.  This includes:
  • Melbourne - a business trip in early-February.
  • New Zealand - two business trips scheduled, one in mid-February and one at the end of March. The later trip is an annual offsite. There's talk about holding this year's event in Queenstown.
  • Perth - a business trip in late-February.
  • Longreach - Garry and I are off to outback Queensland for a week-long Easter vacation.
  • USA - Garry and I have a two-week road trip through South Dakota, Wyoming and Montana booked in September. We're off to see Mount Rushmore, Yellowstone National Park and Salt Lake City.
Sadly, short-haul flights are not enough to maintain my Qantas Platinum Frequent Flyer status.  After more than a decade enjoying the various perks of top tier flying status, I found myself downgraded to Gold level this month.  To date, the greatest shock has been the change in lounge access. 

Previously on domestic flights I'd had access to the Domestic Business Class lounge.  My Gold status only gives me access to the Qantas Club lounge.  The difference was subtle, but immediately obvious.  Gone was the hot breakfast option of eggs and bacon, replaced by toasted cheese sandwiches I had to make myself.  Gone were the deep, comfortable leather armchairs, replaced by a somewhat less cosy version.  It's surprising what simple creature comforts you get use to.

No doubt there will be more road trips to come in the weeks and months ahead. Stay tuned for more posts on my domestic (and trans-Tasman) adventures.

Friday, January 17

The world's coldest heat wave

Melbourne has been in the grips of a heat wave for the last three days. I flew into the city for business on Wednesday morning, landing shortly before 8:30am. As I left the airport the thermometer had already hit 35C. It subsequently peaked mid-afternoon at 43C.

Temperatures on Thursday's reached 44C, while today's high was a modest 42C. Yesterday, the heat was so punishing that play was suspended for several hours at the Australian Open. Officials called for the unprecedented halt after tennis players and ball boys began dropping like flies.

It's therefore somewhat ironic that I found myself wearing a long sleeve shirt in the office today. Yesterday, while wearing a short-sleeve shirt the occasional cold shiver had run down my back. It seems that building management responded to the soaring temperatures by cranking up the air-conditioning to near Arctic conditions.

• Posted from my iPhone

Saturday, January 11

Freycinet reflections

Garry and I are still reliving memories of our truly sublime Christmas at Saffire Freycinet, in Coles Bay.  Our two nights/three days at this resort were a genuine highlight from our Tasmanian road trip.  Everything was simply perfect.  The view. The weather. The service. The food.  The wine.  The room.  It was all perfect.  Basically the entire package just blew us away.

The photo you see here was taken on Christmas morning.  We're suited up in our waders really to wander into the bay and enjoy freshly shucked oysters plucked from the water. Behind us are the stunning Hazards, a small range of hills that frame the eastern shore of Coles Bay.

By the time we returned our hire car last Sunday evening we'd clocked up an incredible 3,966 kms over 16 days.  I was momentarily tempted to drive around the block a few time just to hit the magic 4,000 mark.

The car's trip meter also kept track of how long we'd been driving.  The total time was an astonishing 61 hours.  We certainly didn't feel like we were living in our car.  Our itinerary seemed well paced with several relaxing sojourns along the way, including Saffire.

Happy New Year!

Saturday, January 4

Border crossing

Garry and I crossed several state borders today while making our way back to Sydney. The first crossing occurred somewhere in the middle of Bass Strait, about 2am this morning. We slept through the entire event on board the Spirit of Tasmania.  Our second crossing occurred about 4:30pm this afternoon as we entered our home state of New South Wales.

Our sea crossing was a rather rolling affair, with more than one shuddering crash jolting me awake in night. The captain clearly took his time as we finally arrived in Melbourne an hour later scheduled. However Garry and I were happy to have extra sleeping time. Two week earlier, the 4:45am wake up on our voyage south was a rather unpleasant shock to the system.

Today's late arrival also made it much easier to find a decent cafe in St Kilda. Nothing decent is ever open before 7:00am. By the time we'd parked the car, Rococo, a local institution, was open.  We stopped for a hearty breakfast before hitting the road.  I enjoyed a smashed avocado and poached egg combination, seasoned with basil and pomodoro tomatoes.  After numerous hot breakfasts I was keen to try anything but more bacon and eggs.  This avocado combination was a refreshing change.

This evening we're relaxing at the historical Seahorse Inn nestled on the shores of Twofold Bay, 9km south of Eden. The hotel is the last surviving structure of a former township called Boydtown, which once supported 200 inhabitants.

The hotel and fledging community began construction in 1843. The venture was financed by Scottish entrepreneur, Benjamin Boyd. He purchased a large property on the foreshore as a base for his Steamship Company which operated paddle-steamers between Sydney, Twofold Bay and Hobart.

The first building erected in Boydtown was the "Seahorse Inn", named after one of Boyd's steam-boats. The foundations were constructed of sandstone imported from Sydney and the rest of the building from locally made bricks and hardwood and with cedar and oak fixtures imported from England. The hotel was built with convict labour but never fully finished.

Boyd ultimately went bankrupt and disappeared soon after in the Solomon Islands. The hotel fell into ruin but was subsequently restored by a local builder in the 1950s. A second renovation was completed in 2007. It's somewhat ironic that the final day of our Tasmanian road trip should find us staying in another hotel with links to the island state and its convict heydays.

• Posted from my iPhone

Thursday, January 2

Stanley sunset

Bliss. As we down a few glasses of vino, the sun is sinking slowly over the sleepy village of Stanley, Tasmania. It's the perfect way to finish our final night exploring Australia's island state. Tomorrow evening we're heading back across Bass Strait.

• Posted from my iPhone
• Location: Australia

Wednesday, January 1

Tasmanian gallery

Here's a selection of images from our Tasmania road trip that no other post had room for. You'll see highlights from Saffire, below, followed by the wild Southern Ocean and Port Arthur.

As you can see, here we loved Cradle Mountain!

And we loved our hotel upgrade in Hobart...