Friday, November 10, 2017

Wrapping Up My Second Trip Down Under

And in what seemed like the blink of eye, this trip down under is over. Another superb trip!

Unknowingly I booked my return flight on the same day as the Melbourne Cup horse race - which is celebrated on Karragarra Island with a community picnic/fund raiser organized by Gary and Sonia.  So, the day before I departed they were involved in preparing for the event including lots of finger foods.  I followed their suggestion to take the ferry to the mainland and drive about an hour away to the beautiful Tamborine Mountain — home to several National Parks, a Botanical Garden, a Heritage Center (history museum), and hiking destination.  I enjoyed a fun, beautiful day of hiking and enjoying the solitude of the parks and gardens and included a lunch stop at a local brewery.

I returned to the Island in time for yet another delicious dinner with Gary and Sonia — now great friends who I hope to visit again in 2018.  Even as I write this, I am amazed and pleased that Gary encouraged this stop in this beautiful part of Australia.  And, I’m super pleased that I took a chance on assessing his genuineness.  

I booked a motel near the airport for the day before my return flights — so I could get the rental car returned early and have a relaxed departure.  It worked our perfectly. Little did I know when I booked the motel that it would be walking distance from the Brisbane cruise terminal — which now has new meaning knowing Gary/Sonia and their son run the port operations.  

As you might imagine, I’m already watching for cheap fares to return to dive Fiji, to revisit my cousin in Melbourne, to visit friends and do another live-aboard in Cairns and, of course, to return to Gary/Sonia’s island home - perhaps to include Melbourne Cup next year.  Another great trip — wrapped — with more lined up.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

New Friends

One of the many fun things about traveling is meeting people.  Sometimes they are just people I get to know for a brief part of the trip and don't get contact information, and sometimes they are people who I will stay in touch with, follow on Facebook, and/or visit again.  This trip has been no exception: I'll definitely try to stay in touch with some of the folks on the scuba diving adventure and I've enjoyed getting to know my accommodation's host in Cairns who took me out to a pub on two of the nights to "join" her trivia teams (I'm terrible at trivia, but enjoyed the evenings).

But this story is about the continuation of a contact that started in Bali last March -- with typical "traveler" connection kind of conversation.

It's always a bit of a "dance" to discern the seriousness of the "come see me," or "let's stay in touch" invitations I've gotten during my travels -- but for many reasons, including his assertive way of making sure I had his email, I felt the invitation by "Gary" during a short poolside conversation was genuine.  And with my usual "what's the worst that can happen" attitude, I followed up the meeting with email exchange that probed his seriousness.  Of course the emails gave him lots of opportunity to shut down, or defer, the invitation -- but that didn't happen and I embarked upon the trip with tentative plans to visit him.  Tentative?  Yes, of course.  After all, I knew about as much about him as he did me.  And in this case, it wasn't an easy -- pop by and visit.  He lives on an island about an hour south of the Brisbane airport.

On Halloween, I flew from Cairns to Brisbane, picked up a rental car -- and following his guidance, proceeded to a small motel in the town of Redland Bay (here) he arranged.  He had encouraged me to say hello to the owner -- who also owns a villa in Bali (made another "friend") -- and after that proceed to a nearby locals' restaurant.  All went smoothly.

The next morning I proceeded to a nearby residence with gated parking (he had left a gate remote at the motel for me) -- where I met up with Gary and his wife Sonia, who was visiting the residence (home of one of their 4 children) to pick up their newest grandchild, a four month old, for the day.  All prearranged by Gary, who had to proceed to a business meeting, I accompanied his wife on a ferry ride

to their home on Karagarra Island (here).  It's worth remembering that until arrival on island, I just thought I would be staying in a unit/room near or in Gary's home.  I quickly learned that I was staying in a second, waterside guest home about 1/2 mile away from their residence.  After showing me around, Sonia gave me the keys to their SUV and I arrived at my accommodations - a fully equipped home. And this was the place:

And this was my view from the rear: 

And that night I returned to their place for a delicious lamb shank dinner:

As you might imagine, all my trepidation about the genuineness of the connection from the brief Bali-poolside conversation 7 months ago, vanished as I got to know Gary and Sonia -- owners of several successful businesses including all the port operations services for the very busy Brisbane cruise terminal, and learned about their family (4 children in their 30's and grandchilden).

Gary and Sonia are like me -- haven't met too many "strangers" except those who want to remain strangers -- and conversation flowed easily such that I was happy to agree to join Gary on a two day - 22 hour road trip to near-Sydney and back, including an overnight stay at another relative's house, to pick up a vintage jet boat he had purchased.  Here we are returning on the ferry with the boat -- one just like Gary owned as a young man.
Of course I was with him for its maiden voyage of his ownership:
I'm staying a total of 6 nights -- enjoying more outings and meals with Gary/Sonia -- and learning all about Aussie island life and their businesses, their lives, their families.  It's been delightful.  It was definitely another lucky day for me to have crossed paths with Gary last March in Bali.  I'm already thinking of when I can return and continue to enjoy their friendship in this beautiful piece of the world.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Another Lucky Personal Connection

So here comes another unusual "lucky personal connection" story:  This last March I met an Aussie poolside in Bali - chatted with him about an hour or so -- and yesterday I was driving his SUV, moving into his "guest" house - a fully furnished, waterside home, and sitting down to a lamb dinner with him and his wife at his primary residence, also waterside just down the road.  Where: On Karragarra Island (mapped here) only accessible by ferry south of Brisbane.

Before I tell the details story in my next posting (don't have time tonight to write it all), its been fun for me to reflect on several such unusual and lucky personal connections I've experienced in my travels, including:

1. Adding a Dutch "daughter" to my life from a chance meeting on a flight to Amsterdam (told here) - leading to knowing her mom and brother and staying with them in The Netherlands and hosting them in Portland and on a road trip to San Francisco.

2. Adding a Chinese "son" to my life from a chance meeting with the adult son of his host family in the USA (told here) and traveling with him to the home of his parents in rural China (told here).

3. Adding a Chinese businessman friend to my life and having dinner with his wife and family from a chance meeting on an intra-China flight (told here).

4. Adding entire Balinese families to my life by (a) making a personal connection with my Balinese driver (told here), (b) taking a chance on asking a Balinese fisherman if I might go fishing with him (told here); and, (c) taking a chance on alternate path on my route (told here).

Of course, those are just a few that come to mind.  This most recent story -- in my next posting.