Category Archives: Travel

#48 Mess About in Boats

It wasn’t until Form One (as Year Seven was called back then) that I was introduced to the magical world of boating.

This was courtesy of Kenneth Grahame’s engaging tale of the adventures of Ratty and Mole, Badger and Toad in The Wind in the Willows.

Who wouldn’t be seduced by Ratty’s pronouncement in the very first chapter?


Alas, I was growing up in a bitterly cold, inland city without a beach or river to its name, nurtured by loving parents who… well… you couldn’t call them outdoor types. (This may explain why, on my first-ever camping trip at age 22, I had no idea that you didn’t pitch your tent in a cosy hollow under a gum tree. Especially without checking for the possibility of torrential rain during the night.) So my love of boating was entirely imaginary for many years.

What better time to change all that now though, and live the dream. A chance to…

#48 Mess About in Boats

Ratty was spot on – it’s so worth doing.

Boats, of course, come in all shapes and sizes. And degrees of safety.

There was that disastrous early experiment with three friends, when we were sent down a raging Murray River in two canoes, on our own, by the Dodgy Brothers’ Hire-a-Risky-Boat Adventures. 

Thanks to life jackets and expert recreational kayakers who raced across to pluck us from the water as we parted ways with our canoes and careened towards South Australia, I lived to brave the river again one late afternoon as dusk was falling. But this time, it was in the back of a canoe with a World Champion/Murray River Marathon winner doing all the hard work in the front seat. Bliss!

Racing down the Murray and up Wodonga Creek taking curves at breakneck speed with an expert guide is truly exciting, even though he mistakenly thought he could further spook me with a diversion past a bat colony.


Amazing. Flying mammals! What’s not to like…?

If Scandi Noir is the mood you’re after though, then messing about in a boat at New Zealand’s Doubtful Sound is just the ticket. All dark and brooding and ominous. No wonder James Cook was doubtful it was navigable when he named it.


You could well be at the end of the earth. Oh, hang on a minute…

Even the silhouette of a travelling companion takes on a sinister hue in this part of the world.


Exploring in a boat means you can get up close and personal with all manner of wildlife.

Spot seals sunning themselves,


Or water birds doing a picturesque pose694

…in splendid isolation

But you don’t have to travel miles away from home to find a relaxing boating experience.

The Sienna Daisy is a new cruise boat purpose built for the Murray River right here in Albury. No more worries of a river too low to support the mechanism of cumbersome paddle steamers, romantic though they may be.


Take a 60 or 90-minute scheduled river cruise or book a private function. Include the Captain’s Lunch of a BBQ and salads if you want and complement this with a glass of wine.  All your worries will disappear into the water as you float along, caressed by the gentle movement and sense of escape.

And If you’ve ever wondered why Noreuil Park has such an unpronounceable name, you can find that out, too.

I could have boated all day…


and just a stone’s throw from home…

No doubt about it, messing about in boats is the bees knees.

I wonder if it’s too late to consider buying my own boat? Of course, I’d have to get a bigger car, too  – with a tow bar  – and a boat trailer. And learn how to reverse them all down a narrow driveway and a slippery ramp without jack-knifing. Is that do-able for a post-adult woman, I wonder?

Because I can’t help thinking that being the skipper of your own boat would make you feel like a Master of The Universe.


Wouldn’t you agree, Charlie…?

#38 Find your Favourite Museum

Notice anything special about the picture below?

Screen Shot 2016-02-23 at 4.33.22 pm

It looks like the entrance to a children’s adventure world, doesn’t it? A fun place to be if you’re young, but not really a site for adults.

I think they’ve got it all wrong. At this stage of life, I’ve finally realised how important it is to

#38 Find Your Favourite Museum

And I’ve now discovered that Science Museums are definitely my favourite museums, despite the implied suggestion from that banner at Scienceworks in Melbourne’s Spotswood that they’re not catering to my demographic.

But I’ll let you in on a secret: when we arrived there mid week – without any children in tow –  we were welcomed warmly, albeit with surprise, and ushered in for free like some honoured older statespeople!

IMG_1928…and Science certainly works for me

I’ve visited several of the finest museums and galleries around the world:

The Louvre             √
Uffizi                        √
The Guggenheim  √
The Tate                  √
MONA                     √
MCA                         √

Yes, they’re all wonderful, but finding something clever to do and to experiment with rather than something clever to look at and admire is my kind of museum.

Even our own MAMA knows that if you want to get them in the doors, it helps to provide fun and activities for all ages.

Look what the clever folk of Albury recently constructed with nothing more than a big pile of white lego over a few weeks:

and this wasn’t just built by the littlies…

I’ve revelled in visits to the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney’s Ultimo several times, but had never quite made it to Melbourne’s equivalent. Could it be because the name Scienceworks at Spotswood doesn’t have quite the same cutting-edge, futuristic sound as Powerhouse at Ultimo?

For starters, where is Spotswood? Is that the same Spotswood of Anthony Hopkins and Moccasin fame?

Turns out, it’s a mere six train stops on the Williamstown Line from Southern Cross station:

To Spotswood

The first delight on entering – after finding out that it’s free for honoured older statespeople, of course – was discovering that the next time someone says to me, ‘You’re worth your weight in gold,’ I can put an exact figure on it:

Worth my weight in gold

3.03 million! Who’d have thought?

 Then there was an opportunity to look into the future. By asking you to choose your interests, skills and preferred work sites, a computer attempts to predict where you’ll fit into society in years to come, and then provides you with your work ID.

My companion discovered she’ll be a teacher – but as a hologram rather than a flesh and blood one – whereas my future job sounded much more exotic:

Screen Shot 2016-02-24 at 4.23.46 pm

…move over Homer Simpson

And we’ll all be conveyed in smart little electric concept cars like this GM Holden En-V. It has 2 wheels and self balancing gyroscopic control and drives itself:

Electric car

if only they’d let us have a go in this little beauty…

Then there’s the fun experiment of using a cunningly designed room to create the optical illusion that a person can change size as they walk across it.

Alas, it didn’t translate as well in the photographs as it did in real life. Perhaps it’s true that the camera never lies…

You can be timed racing against a virtual Cathy Freeman for a few seconds, too, to see how your acceleration rate compares to hers.

The short answer is, it doesn’t.

Probably the biggest surprise was doing the ‘height to armspan’ test. This ratio is supposed to be about equal in adult humans, meaning you’re almost as tall as you are wide when your arms are fully outstretched. This seemed to be the case for all the people who tested themselves in the museum that day. Except for one.

With a height of 157 cm and an arm span of 171 cm, I can’t help feeling I’ve been cheated somehow.

But then, there’s always someone worse off. Consider this hungry seagull, who came to visit us as we sat in the outdoor cafe shortly before departure.

Screen Shot 2016-02-24 at 6.14.42 pm

…not happy

So much to experience, so much to ponder. Where did the time go?

Now I’ve found Spotswood, there’s no doubt about it.

I’ll be back…

#20 Have an Outback Experience

Perhaps this blog entry should begin with a disclaimer. Since first viewing the film Wake in Fright in the 1970s, I have never, ever wanted to visit the outback.

Never. Ever.

This feeling grew stronger following the appalling treatment meted out to the Chamberlains by the Northern Territory Justice system after a dingo stole their infant in 1980. (And if you still have doubts that the dingo did it, just watch how a whippet treats a soft toy.)

And as for the 2005 film Wolf Creek, well, I never, ever, even considered watching it.

So with this in mind, I didn’t immediately jump at the chance of going to the outback when a close friend asked me to accompany her on a flying visit to see her daughter in Broome in outback Western Australia recently. She was keen for some company, because her husband couldn’t go due to work commitments, her son had Year 12 tests, another daughter was too busy with horse-eventing practice and her six other best friends begged off for very valid reasons. I had unexpectedly, and shockingly, reached the top of her list.

So that’s how I came to:

#20 Have an Outback Experience

Road to Rodeo

And let’s be honest, I have a blog to feed.  If visiting the outback on a whim turns out not to be fun, surely it can be considered frivolous?

There’s no doubt that the outback is another country. The heat, the dust, the colours. Especially the colours with the rich, red soil and startling rocks like nothing you see in the south.

Sunset Broome 2 cropped

Colours that stay with you, even after taking several showers and scrubbing with an exfoliant


While I didn’t manage to view the dinosaur footprints during my short stay, or even catch the moon and staircase rising over the ocean, I did watch a beautiful sunset at Gantheaume Point.


Sunset Broome


But wait, there’s more. My friend’s daughter was competing in the barrel racing section at the Broome Rodeo!

Yes, fun and frivolous activity #20 Have an Outback Experience was now expanding to include ‘And attend an Outback Rodeo’. And for those of you who don’t know what barrel-racing is (I certainly didn’t) it’s where the cowgirls at a rodeo are permitted to enter the arena for a few brief moments to ride their horses tightly around three strategically placed barrels in a clover-leafed pattern to display their speed and horsemanship.

But the real point of a rodeo, of course, is to see the cowboys wrangle cattle and stay as long as possible on the back of a bucking bull or horse. And here’s the scary outback twist to the story. The bull or horse only bucks because it has a strap pulled tightly around its most sensitive bits before being sent out with the cowboy on its back.

Rodeo Broome 2

 Don’t worry.  He won’t last…

But I’m delighted to report that the animal always wins. Any chap able to stay more than ten seconds on the beast’s back is cheered wildly, but he still ends up on the ground.

One unfortunate fellow was bucked off his ride a millisecond after galloping into the arena, so was generously given a second chance. But as if the first ride wasn’t embarrassing enough in this heart of tough-guy territory, he promptly fell off the second time even faster. Hilarious!

Bull: 1  Cowboy: 0

As we flew  back from Broome to Melbourne, the pilot told us we’d be passing directly over Ayers Rock and as the weather was clear, we’d all get a great look at it.

Five minutes later, he was back on the microphone, apologising.

‘Ladies and Gentlemen, I am terribly sorry about my last announcement.  Of course, I meant Uluru. We’ll be passing over Uluru shortly. It’s just that in the air-traffic manual, the structure is still known as Ayers Rock. I didn’t mean any disrespect and I do apologise.’

Sure enough, in another five minutes, we were passing over Uluru and I had a spectacular view from above as the apologetic pilot dipped the plane’s right wing for a full 30 seconds.

So now I’ve seen the outback, been to a rodeo, watched a sunset on Cable beach, seen a boab tree and inspected Uluru from the sky.

And I’ll never, ever have to do it again.

Unless I want to….

Boab Tree Town Beach Broome

Pretty as a … boab tree.





#16 Attend a Major Sporting Event

The beauty of sport is that it doesn’t matter if you have the eye-hand coordination of a fish and the fitness level of a sloth, you can still get involved. And that’s because watching sport is one of life’s little pleasures, with the added bonus that as a spectator, you’re magically bestowed with all the sporting knowledge and skills you don’t have when you try to play.

Who hasn’t yelled at the television during an exciting match: ‘For goodness’ sake, I could’ve kicked the goal from there!’?

So this brings me to the next fun and frivolous activity:

#16 Attend a Major Sporting Event

By ‘Major’ sporting event, I mean something SO BIG that it has the words ‘OLYMPIC’, ‘GRAND’ or ‘NAME-OF-A-COUNTRY OPEN’ in the title.

So when generous friends bought me a ticket to attend a Centre Court match during the Australian Tennis Open last January, how could I resist?

Tennis 08

“‘Name-of-a-Country’ Open”, “Grand”, “Slam” and  “Asia/Pacific” in one hit.   Bingo!

The ticket was for an evening session early in the second week, which was perfect.

Tennis 01

The extreme weather that caused such debate during the first week was no longer a problem and being the second week, we were pretty much guaranteed players of high calibre.

My match was between the highly fancied second seed, Novak Djokovic and the hitherto almost unknown Swiss player, Stanislaw Wawrinka.

I was unkindly expecting a quick three-setter, judging that Novak would demolish his opponent in no time.

Shows you how much I know about tennis.

Tennis 05

Early days…

By the time the fifth set began, we were on the edge of our seats, the noise level in the stadium would have raised the roof, had it been closed, and while I still waited for the inevitability of a Djokovic win, it was marvellously exciting to watch.

Except that the unthinkable happened, and Stan Wawrinka triumphed in one of those magical endings you never forget.  He went on to win the title a few days later.

So just how good is Attending a Major Sporting Event?

It’s good. Seriously good.

You’re wrapped up in the atmosphere, part of a wave of supporters all focussed on the same action, at the same moment. You feel like your support is essential to the players, and that you, too, are as important as the players.

And I also got to experience a screaming, roaring, very partisan Djokovic fan sitting right next to me. A fan who, interestingly, spent the entire match flicking through photos of scantily-clad women on his smart phone – which fortunately didn’t seem to worry his girlfriend – and only looked up to emit an ear-splitting bellow when he realised Novak must have won a point.

But are there any downsides to Attending a Major Sporting Event?

Only one or two, really. Having to queue between games for a bottle of water so pure, so pristine that you’re prepared to pay the equivalent of an airline upgrade for it can be a bit annoying.  As is waiting … and waiting … at the bottom of the stairs, missing important play, until the organisers let you resume your centre court seat at the next break.

And of course, the other problem with such an intense, live experience is the slight let-down when you realise that you’ll be watching the remaining matches on television and will no longer be able to influence the results like you (think) you can when you’re in the crowd.

To counteract this, I invited friends around to watch the semi-final as a ‘special television event’ on my big screen a few nights later.

It had its advantages. We could chat through the points without being ordered to be ‘quiet please’, we saw all the play in exquisite close-up detail and we had puzzling decisions explained by the commentators while we ate and drank whatever we wanted, whenever we wanted without breaking the bank.

And enjoying a comfort break without having to wait for my friends to let me re-enter my television room was priceless.

#9 Take a Road Trip

Aah, road trips. Doesn’t the very phrase conjure memories of student days where long summer holidays meant jumping in the car with friends, turning up the radio as Simon and Garfunkel went to “look for America” and heading off somewhere fun and new, preferably near water?

Of course, I didn’t have a car in those days, wasn’t much of a swimmer, and was way too shy to take off on such adventures, so I actually have no memories of anything as exciting as a youthful road trip, but at least friends’ stories and Simon and Garfunkel gave me a taste of it.

But finally the time has come: to re-create the free-spirited younger life I never really had the first time round:

#9: Take a Road Trip

My sister and I had planned for some years to head over to Western Victoria and the Grampians to dine at the renowned Royal Mail Hotel restaurant in Dunkeld, so when Sydney friends had the same idea, we decided to do the Western Victoria Road Trip and meet them there.


Mt SturgeonMt Sturgeon, Dunkeld 

But best of all, we realised it could be a nostalgic trip by catching up with old friends and relatives on the way and revisiting our birthplace at Ballarat.


Ballarat reindeerSturt Street Ballarat was never like this when I grew up there…

I’m delighted to report that nostalgic road trips are as enjoyable as I imagined. Reuniting with old friends is like eating crumpets and honey in front of an open fire on a cold, wet night. So comforting, so warming.

The company was wonderful throughout our trip  – and so was the food.

There’s a lot of quirkiness to be found on road trips, and in Australia, this often seems to revolve around animals. Trentham, in central Victoria, is keen on wombats:


Trentham Wombat reducedBut they also seem to like animals not normally found in our climes:

Trentham garden centre red

Panda and friends opposite the wonderful Red Beard Bakery in Trentham

And who could go past the larger-than-life kookaburra in Dunkeld?


Kookaburra at Dunkeld red

I also learnt about lychgates on this trip, when friends told us of their plans to construct one as an entrance to the property they’re planning to build in Trentham.  I love it when you hear about something for the first time, then you keep hearing about it or seeing it and you wonder how you got so far in life in such ignorance.

Lychgates originated in England and were built to shelter coffins awaiting the clergyman at the entrance to a churchyard, but despite the name, they don’t necessarily have a gate attached to them. Here’s an example I found, with much excitement, in Hamilton, just 2 days after finding out what a lychgate actually was:


Lychgate HamiltonMy first sighting of a lychgate-style entrance…

But blow me down, upon arriving back home and boring all my friends with tales of lychgates, I was told that not one kilometre from my home was a perfect example of one at the entrance to our pioneer cemetery – replete with a gate:


Lychgate Alb redA beautiful example of a Lychgate – a few hundred metres from home!

But the massive hedge with the word Bolinda carefully sculptured into the side took the prize for the quirkiest sight on the trip.

BolindaWhy is “Bolinda” meticulously carved into this hedge?

And in another of those “you hear about something for the first time, then you keep hearing about it or seeing it” moments, I came across a billboard on the Tullamarine freeway as I returned home that screamed

Now this website belongs to a publishing company, but is it related to my hedge located somewhere between Dunkeld and Hamilton?

You’ve got to love a good mystery!

#4 Buy a ‘Mystery Hotel’ Stay

One of the big advantages of trying 101 Fun and Frivolous Things in Retirement is that it forces you to do stuff that’s perhaps a little out of character. Like:

#4: Buy a “Mystery Hotel” stay

When a friend invited me to his birthday lunch at a venue in Melbourne, I had to find accommodation, being from out-of-town and all. So I opened up Wotif and my next adventure jumped out – book and pay for a hotel in the city without knowing where it was.  

Okay, this may not sound too adventurous to some, but I’m the sort of person who needs to start new adventures ex..tre..mely slowly, so for me, it was an outsidethesquare experience.

Just before you commit to paying for your accommodation, the site pops up the sort of question guaranteed to give you the shivers:

“Are you sure you want to book without knowing where you’ll be staying?”

Now normally, I’d have had cold feet at that and backed right out.  But in the spirit of doing Fun and Frivolous Things, I took a deep breath and pressed the ‘Pay Now” button, which let me tell you, took some courage, even in the knowledge that I was saving oodles of money by doing this.

But miracle upon miracle, the hotel I scored was directly opposite the lunch venue!

So when the birthday lunch ended, several of us wandered over for a coffee in the hotel lounge – it being so close and so convenient – with me feeling mightily smug and proud of my excellent choice.

That was before I settled down for the night, turned off the television and realised that my room was directly behind a lift shaft.

Try sleeping on an airport runway. It’s probably more peaceful…