After a ten hour flight from Shanghai, we finally arrived in Sidney, Australia. Now we just had to navigate trains and buses before we arrived in Raglan. The transportation system used swipe cards, and we had a little confusion figuring out where we wanted to go and where to swipe. On the train, we ran in to the only snag of the whole trip. We had set our suitcases in a place that looked like a luggage spot, and Lee checked on them from time to time. When we got to the place where we switched to the bus, his bag was gone!
He announced this emphatically, and someone came to the rescue saying they saw a bag in the next car. It had been opened and rifled through—his clothes were tossed around. He managed to lug everything off the train and sat on the ground to get the bag repacked. Luckily, only a couple of kilt pins seemed to be missing. It was frustrating, but could have been worse. Finally we were able to settle on the bus.
Now we could relax and enjoy the scenery. I thought it resembled Southern California with rolling hills covered with tan grass and the occasional green shrub. We kept our eyes out for kangaroos, but unfortunately we never saw one. They tend to come out at dawn and dusk to graze.
The bus stopped at Raglan at a turnoff next to a gas station. Sarah perched on a log waiting and I jumped up to give her a hug. After all the travel, it was wonderful to see a friend. She scurried to the gas station to get a soda for Lee whose blood sugar was low and we all chatted as if we it hadn’t been years since we had seen her.
“I hope you’re hungry, it’s pizza night,” Sarah informed us as we arrived at her house. Sarah and her mother-in-law Miriam started an assembly line, rolling the pizza and topping them with sauce, meats and cheese. They made four. Sarah had to feed a crowd—her own four kids, her in laws, herself and us. We made short work of the pizza.
After dinner, she drove us over to the bed and breakfast I had lined up through Airbnb. It was lovely, private and complete with everything we needed. Miriam had left some fruit, including the best mango I ever had. There is just something about eating fresh fruit where it is grown and ripened. I savored every bite.
The next day was Christmas Eve. While I was prepared for Christmas to be warm, I was not prepared for the long days. It was the height of summer after all. People did not decorate with lights like I am familiar with. The town decorated with banners instead of wreaths and Christmas trees. The service at church was all I could wish. They started off with confetti poppers instead of candles, and the readings were narrated with children in mind. All in all, it was very enjoyable.
We had a lot of fun on Christmas Day. It has been a long time since we had any small children around and we relaxed and enjoyed a house full of chaos. Sarah had a special meal planned, but it was in line with the summer weather. She baked a ham with a delicious glaze and set out an array of cold salads. She decorated the table with gold plastic ware and branches of gum trees. She reserved the candles for the adult’s table because the gum branches were dry and very flammable.
I have to say—that was the best ham I have ever had. Ever!
The next day we left early to catch the bus. Sarah and Miriam had researched the bus times so we could make the boarding time for the cruise, and have our bags stowed safely in the luggage compartment. We were even able to get the train to the harbor without too much trouble.
Our first job after getting off the bus was to hunt down some breakfast. Lee discovered that Australian coffee can come with an ice cream topper!
One of the most memorable moments happened on the train to the harbor. Lee wore a Princess Bride themed shirt that day and a young lady on the train recognized the reference right away. For the rest of the ride they swapped quotes. Lee even jumped at the opportunity to quote the Mawwige speech at her request. The rest of us in earshot just sat and laughed and rolled our eyes.
Our first view of the harbor was exciting. We could see the boat off to one side and the wharf had lots of people strolling around. We stopped for some ice cream, Lee tried passion fruit. I gave some money to a busker. It was so much fun to hear the live music as we sat in the sun to eat our cones and then wander over to the entrance to the ship.
We were able to board right away, so we went hunting for our stateroom to leave our hand luggage, and then we went in search of lunch. It was fun to explore the ship and figure out what the routine for the next 11 days would be. The first three days were spent crossing the Tasmin Sea. I loved waking up in the morning to see nothing but ocean. I could open the door and step onto the balcony in my jammies and breathe in the sea air. It was very relaxing and invigorating as well!