Gold Coast, Wednesday 8 to Friday 10 May 2019

The distance between Brunswick Heads and Gold Coast was only 77 kms. It was a quick run, but without a working GPS, it took us a little extra time to locate Rob and Donna’s house at Broadbeach Waters. Rob and Donna are friends we made on our tag-along Kimberley trip in 2015. We arrived all excited and had a good chat prior to setting off to a little Chinese yum cha restaurant in nearby Robina. Katie shouted, and ordered an extra dish of special fried rice to take away for our dinner tonight in the motorhome, wherever we may be.

A surprisingly good little yum cha restaurant in Robina
Enjoying yum cha with Rob & Donna

Rob was interested to know where we were going in the afternoon, but we honestly did not have any plans other than vague thoughts of heading north to either Brisbane or the southern end of the Sunshine Coast. We were offered the chance to stay for the night at Broadbeach Waters. We declined their offer of sleeping inside the house, as it is easier to stay in Matilda with Dexter while parked on the street. Rob passed us a 15 amp power lead over the front fence, we had a full water tank and an empty toilet, so we had everything we needed.

Our good friends Donna & Rob at their home

After lunch, Ian and Rob had a lovely afternoon strumming their guitars on the back patio. Rob is incredibly good with guitar and has been playing for 17 years, while Ian has been slowly “learning” for 14 years, with side tracks towards the ukulele and the flute. They enjoyed playing together while Donna and Katie relaxed with the music. Rob’s business partners and neighbours, Peter and Judy, dropped in to visit and gave us some tips for travelling in the Northern Territory.

The guitarists, with Donna

For dinner, Rob barbecued the best steaks we have had this year—so tender and juicy—even better than what we has at the Crown Bar and Grill on the Majestic Princess. They rivaled the mud crab we had on our last visit. Donna made a noodle salad, and with the special fried rice, we had a feast. During and after dinner, we had more guitar demos and tips from Rob.

Rob the BBQ King

Rob and friend, Sophie, went water-skiing at 7:00 am the next morning (Friday), and Rob invited Ian to be the spotter on the boat. Rob owns a 1992 ski boat that he is very proud of. Ian had never had anything to do with water skiing before, so this was quite an exciting opportunity. He took some action images and video, and was very impressed with Rob’s strength and stamina.

Rob and Sophie cutting up the Nerang River

After Rob’s ski run, Donna made toast with peanut butter sandwiches with coffee for breakfast. Donna then photocopied some music that Ian selected from Rob’s collection, and Ian promised to learn all the songs during our trip.

Dexter had a run and paddle at the private beach of Rob and Donna’s house beside the Nerang River. As usual, he thoroughly enjoyed his romp on the sand, but did not venture very far from the shore.

Dexter playing on Rob & Donna’s beach

We are very grateful for all the hospitality that Rob and Donna gave us. We disconnected the power lead, said our goodbyes, and continued our drive northwards.

Byron Bay, Monday 6 to Wednesday 8 May 2019

Ian contacted Robyn, who he worked with at Rockend and had retired to Byron Bay with her husband, Denis. Robyn invited us for lunch on Monday, so we left Arrawarra and headed north. It took nearly 3 hours to drive to Byron Bay, with a lot of roadworks between Grafton and Ballina. Neither of us had been to Byron Bay before, so this would be a new experience for us, as well as a chance to catch up with Robyn.

Byron Bay was best known as a hippie area many years ago, but this demographic has changed dramatically as many relatively affluent people have moved in, built beautiful houses, and adopted a carefree lifestyle in a tropical climate with trendy shops and cafes. We got stuck in traffic in the Byron Bay town centre. It was hard to believe how busy it was here. When we drove up to Robyn and Denis’ beautiful house, we saw many young people sunbathing on the grass outside one of the cafes! It has been many decades since we had done that sort of thing.

Robyn and Denis love Byron Bay, and had been visiting Byron for 26 years prior to buying their first house here a few years ago.

Robyn prepared delicious sandwiches for lunch, accompanied with a curried pumpkin soup. Dexter was a bit excited at first, but being a good boy, he laid down quietly on the front lawn while we had lunch on the front veranda. Robyn looked great, and both her and Denis lead a very healthy life.

It was good to catch up with Robyn, and to find her at home and available for us. We lamented that we didn’t take any photos of our lunch, as we were so busy chatting.

While at Robyn’s, we booked a powered site at the Ferry Reserve Caravan Park at Brunswick Heads for 2 nights. We had a little difficulty finding the place as our Tom Tom GPS was not receiving a GPS signal.

We like the symbol on the right indicating a dog friendly park

The Ferry Reserve Caravan Park had good facilities, although the cleaners closed the amenities near us at 9:00 am when we decided to have a shower. Not impressed. It is located next to the motorway, so it is a bit noisy, although this was not a problem inside Matilda. The location on the Brunswick River was picturesque.

The Brunswick River

On Tuesday morning, we decided to check out Brunswick Heads. We had been encouraged to visit the pub, which is owed by John Cornell (aka Strop) and David Gyngell. However, we could not find anywhere to park Matilda. We found several likely parking spots, but there were always signs nearby indicating that only vehicles less than 6 m were allowed. Matilda is 8 m long with the bike rack on the rear. Brunswick Heads is definitely not RV friendly.

We drove off in disgust to Byron Bay. Our Tom Tom had died, so navigation was challenging. We pulled up at one place to check where we were on Google Maps, and found that we were near the Stone and Wood Brewery, one of Ian’s targets for this trip. Parking was easy, so we went in. The courtyard was dog friendly, so Dexter came too. Ian had a tasting of 3 beers—Cloud Catcher, Jasper Ale and The Prequel—all great. As time was getting on, we decided to stay for lunch. Ian ordered a Korean chicken burger while Katie had a char siu bowl with noodles and vegies. Both dishes were yummy. Ian washed down his burger with Pacific Ale, but felt that it had been watered down from what he remembered it to be. Ian postulates that their Cloud Catcher pale ale is the new Pacific Ale, so he bought a carton. He also bought a 1 litre squealer of The Prequel to share with Grant. Stone and Wood was our first beverage producer of the trip, and we enjoyed it thoroughly.

The full offering from Stone & Wood
The brewery and the Cloud Catcher pale ale
The used beer department

Next door was Byron Bay Cookies, and Katie checked that out and bought some very Moorish biscuits. Katie enquired about the ugly tall silvery statue erected right at the nearby busy roundabout and was told that was supposed to be the Byron Bay Lighthouse. The statue is a bit controversial among the locals. Unfortunately, we could not visit the lighthouse with Dexter, as it is in a national parkl.

The statue of the lighthouse on a roundabout

Suitably fortified by Stone and Wood, we wanted to check out the Byron Bay town centre. Again, we found lots of parking signs allowing only vehicles under 6 m, but there is a nearby, large park for day use by RVs. Signs prohibited camping, but some vehicles appeared to be set up for an overnight stay.

The shops were much higher class than we expected. Katie was not attracted to any of the clothes on offer, so we headed to Belongil Beach, which is dog friendly and off-lead. Dexter enjoyed a swim and a frolic with other dogs at Belonjil Beach.

We decided on seafood for dinner, so we searched for a fishmonger. We found a shop called the Fishmonger, but it was a restaurant. We finally found a real fishmonger and bought locally caught mackerel for dinner to accompany a pumpkin, cranberry and macadamia salad!

We arranged to meet up with friends Rob and Donna from our Kimberley trip in 2015 at their home on the Gold Coast. Rob suggested yum cha, and after careful consideration for a microsecond, Katie responded with YES.

On Wednesday morning, Ian took the Trek mountain bike off the rack for the first time since we left home, and rode into Brunswick Heads. There is parking for longer vehicles, Ian found, not too far from the town centre on the Old Pacific Highway. However, we were off to the Gold Coast today, so Brunswick Heads was not going to benefit further from our visit.

Back at the caravan park, we emptied our toilet and filled our fresh water tank, and set off for Queensland.

Arrawarra, Sunday 5 to Monday 6 May 2019

We wanted to get to Byron Bay on Sunday, but we lingered a bit longer at Old Bar than we intended. We had twice stayed at a caravan park north of Woolgoolga on returning from the Sunshine Coast, so we decided to stay there again this time on our way north. We remembered it had the word Lorikeet in the name, but we were unsure exactly where it was. We found one caravan park in the approximate area, but it was not the one, and there were no powered sites available. However, we took a wrong turn on the way out, and ended up in a cul-de-sac after going down a steep hill. The road was sealed, but the Fiat Ducato struggled to get traction on the way back up the hill. This was the first indication that we will have to be very careful about where we go, as the motorhome is front-wheel-drive which is not ideal for a truck where most of the weight is over the rear axle.

We eventually found the Gateway Lifestyle Lorikeet Park at Arrawarra, and we booked an ensuite site as we have done on both previous occasions. The record keeping of both Lani’s On the Beach and Lorikeet was impressive as they had our details already registered in their system from when we stayed previously.

After driving 273 kilometres since Old Bar, Ian was very tired. We had leftovers of spag bol, watched a bit of TV, and hit the sack early.

The next morning, the three of us took a walk along the beach adjacent to the caravan park. For the second day in a row, Dexter had the beach to himself.

Dexter had the beach to himself
Katie came for a beach walk too

Start of our lap of Australia, home to Old Bar, Saturday 4 to Sunday 5 May 2019

We delayed leaving home for our lap of Australia by about a week to let Ian get over a bug he brought back from Hong Kong, and to come down from our big cruise and family reunion. We also had to finish a few jobs around the house before handing it over to our house sitter, Isaac.

So, the is the first post of our travel blog on the third, and largest component of our travel in 2019. It is posted two weeks after the event, but we have been flat out in the first two weeks of our Australian lap.

We planned our trip on an Excel spreadsheet, but we felt far from organised! The general idea is to drive anticlockwise around the island, keeping as close to the coastline as we can with a front-wheel-drive motorhome. This means we need to go inland after Normanton, through Mount Isa to the Stuart Highway, then north to Darwin to avoid some rough unsealed roads. We will also head north after Melbourne and attend the CMCA annual rally in Elmore, and then head home via Canberra.

It is an awesome trip over 6 months. We have the option of coming home early after Cooktown, or after Darwin and the Top End, if we feel we have had enough, and then we can complete the trip next year. Once we are in the Kimberly region we will be committed to the full lap.

Matilda, our motorhome, finally left the Anambah Sanctuary (our home) at 1:00 pm on Saturday with Katie, Ian and Dexter on board, as well as Ian’s Trek mountain bike secured on a new bike rack. We finally started our long-anticipated adventure, and drove north under a cloudy sky with drizzling rain!

Our first destination was Lani’s On the Beach Caravan Park in Old Bar for a night. We planned to catch up with Ian’s auntie, Audrey, and cousin, Avril, next morning. We could choose our spot, as it was not that busy. It is really on the beach, and is in a top location.

Ian’s signature dish for the first night of every trip—spaghetti bolognaise—was again created and enjoyed, with some leftovers for tomorrow night.

Dexter had a wonderful run along Old Bar beach early in the morning. We checked out of Lani’s, brought bread and apple slices at the Old Bar bakery, then had delicious morning tea of apple slice and cream with Audrey and Avril. Even though we had been to Old Bar with Matilda a couple of times previously, this was the first time that Audrey had a chance to come inside and see how we are going to spend the next half a year.

Ian writing up his diary in Matilda the Motorhome, with Dexter on the bed
Audrey, Dexter, Ian & Avril in Matilda the Motorhome

Hong Kong, Sunday 14 to Monday 22 April 2019

Time is the most precious gift one can give to others. Spending time with family is therefore very important to Katie and Ian, especially now that most of our families live a long way away, including overseas. Family reunions in Singapore and Hong Kong were especially valued parts of our travels in 2019. Ian and Katie were therefore excited when the Majestic Princess docked at the new Kai Tak Cruise Terminal in Hong Kong, as we were going to catch up with a lot of Katie’s family. We disembarked in a very smooth process, which has been typical of Princess, found our luggage without hassle, and caught the free shuttle bus from the cruise terminal to Hollywood Plaza at Diamond Hill MTR station while most passengers were still waiting on the long taxi queues.

We met Katie’s brother Cecil who lives at Galaxia, a set of residential towers adjacent to Hollywood Plaza, and Agatha (Katie’s sister), who was visiting Hong Kong from Manchester. Agatha treated us to a very delicious yum cha breakfast at one of the restaurants in Hollywood Plaza. Back at the apartment we watched the Princess Cruises Reflections DVD, especially the section on our ukulele concert. We think both Agatha and Cecil were amazed with our performing talent.

Cecil drove us to The Salisbury YMCA Hotel where we checked in and unpacked. We were exhausted and slept for two hours before getting burgers and fries for dinner from trusty old McDonalds. Ian started to read A Dog’s Journey by W. Bruce Cameron, which he bought at Hollywood Plaza. This is a sequel to the No. 1 New York Times and USA Today Best-Selling novel—A Dog’s Purpose—which we read last year.

During our stay, the weather in Hong Kong was not great, but very murky, grey and humid, and at times, very stormy.

Hong Kong is famous for shopping and eating. It is very congested, and the population is still growing. There is not a lot of open space in the city. A favourite past time of the residents is meeting and eating. In contrast to Australia, however, you do not see a lot of overweight people in Hong Kong apart from visitors from Australia, north America or the UK.

Besides Maccas, we enjoyed a couple of inexpensive meals at a local Food Republic food court in Tsim Sha Tsui. These eating outlets are frequented by locals and offer a variety of delicious dishes, just like some food courts in Australia—inexpensive and quick. Katie loves congee (rice porridge), and was so disappointed that Maccas in Hong Kong does not have McCongee!…….

During this trip Katie bought a new pair of prescription glasses with red frames, and closed her inactive Hong Kong bank account.

Early in our trip, at Cecil’s suggestion, we took a ferry trip with Cecil to Cheung Chau, an outlying island of Hong Kong. The ferry ride from Hong Kong took half an hour. The weather was very murky and not conducive to photography.

Fast ferry to Cheung Chau

Small fishing boats

Cheung Chau is a small outlying island with a quaint fishing village. It is popular with both Hong Kong residents and tourists. It is an ideal destination for school outings and for family campers, and we shared the ferry with a large group of school campers. Katie remembers when she was young, one of her school outings was to camp at Cheung Chau where her tent was blown away.

Katie’s school camping trip before the tent blew away. Katie is wearing her beret which she still owns.
Welcome to Cheung Chau
More welcome to Cheung Chau

There is a variety of street seafood restaurants along the waterfront. A Bun Festival is held annually, but it was later in the year. The winner is the one who collects most buns from the top of a Bun tree (buns are tied together to form the shape similar to a Christmas tree).

Ian and Katie were amazed to see an open area for fish drying and a large food market

Laying sardines out for drying
Fish drying
Fish drying
Prawns drying

On Cheung Chau there are many tricycles by the roadside for hire. Tricycles and small tractors seem to be the main transport in the village. Seeing rows and rows of tricycles idle on the roadside and waiting to be hired, Cecil and Ian couldn’t help themselves but to hire two tricycles at HK$40 each for an hour.  Katie spread herself between these 2 tricycles as passenger. As the bikes are not set up for tall people, Ian found it a bit uncomfortable to ride. We had a great time riding around the waterfront. Cecil admitted that it had been 40 years since he had ridden a bike.

Ian on trike
Cecil on trike
Pick your seafood for dinner
Get your fish balls here
Street market

We also tasted some gong cha (a strong black tea) which can be drunk with some honey or sugar. Katie tried some bubble tea (tea with tapioca pearls, like sago). We devoured steamy freshly baked Portuguese tarts from a food vendor.

Gong cha
Blue Girl Pilsener, which is strongly promoted on Cheung Chau

After returning from Cheung Chau, we took the MTR to Wong Tai Sin in the hope of seeing the Wong Tai Sin Temple and having a vegetarian meal there. Unfortunately, the temple was closed, but instead we had a delicious dinner at the Shanghaiteng 1930 restaurant in the Temple Mall.

Wong Tai Sin Temple
Ma po tofu and sweet & sour fish
Buns with banana and red bean paste

During most nights Ian wrote up summaries for the day, sorted and resized photos, and posted them to our travel blog. He has been extremely diligent while Katie was a bit slack!

As we missed our vegetarian meal at the Wong Tai Sin Temple, we aimed to have a vegetarian meal at the Chi Lin Nunnery next to Hollywood Plaza. The vegetarian lunch was lovely, and Ian tried his first beer in Hong Kong at Cecil’s place. We also bought some Chinese tea for our friends Norm and Lee who were so generous with their time by minding our dog Dexter. The tea was the same as that we had at the vegetarian lunch.

Gai lan with ginger and broccoli with abalone mushrooms
Vegetarian spring rolls
Tofu and porcini mushroom casserole
Noodles with mushrooms

The next evening, Agatha took us to the Empire City Roasted Duck Restaurant in K11 where we enjoyed a first course of the Peking Duck dish—duck skin with a little flesh, wrapped in crepes and dipped in hoisin sauce.

Before Agatha returned to Manchester, Katie went to iSQUARE shopping mall in Tsim Sha Tsui to buy two USB drives for copying the Majestic Princess Reflections DVDs—one for Agatha and Michael in Manchester, and one for Cecil in Hong Kong. Of course, the highlight on the DVDs is the ukulele concert. Ian then did the copying from his laptop computer.

Katie was very grateful when Agatha bought her a scarf (because of her cold), a gift of two bracelets, and a handy travelling hot water flask to ease her throat in the hot, dusty and sometimes smoky Hong Kong atmosphere.

We are very grateful that both Agatha and Philomena changed their business plans to be in Hong Kong while we were there. Philomena arrived the day that Agatha flew home, but they overlapped for a couple of hours at The Salisbury, where Philomena was staying.

Siblings Agatha, Cecil, Philomena and Katie (wearing her new scarf) at The Salisbury

On Philomena’s first full day in Hong Kong, Katie, Philomena, Cecil, Jon and Flora went to the Tseung Kwan O Columbarium to pay respects to Katie, Philomena and Cecil’s parents, and Jon’s maternal grandparents. As it was the Easter public holiday period, the columbarium had many people paying their respects. The columbarium is on the side of a hill and has a panoramic water view. Ian stayed behind as he developed a head cold and was feeling crook. After paying our respects, the family lunched at a nearby shopping mall.

Tseung Kwan O Columbarium and the view

Back at The Salisbury that day, Ian slept in and eventually walked the short distance to Starbucks for a heart-starting black coffee. Ian walked around a while, ending up at the Ocean Terminal. He discovered a large food hall, and he was surprised that all the fresh food was wrapped in plastic, except for a lot of seafood. He counted 12 different types of oysters, all huge. He found the wine area, but you would need at least A$60 for a reasonable bottle of Australian or NZ wine. Eventually he came across the beer department, and he spent a pleasant half an hour selecting some samples to take back to the hotel. Two IPAs brewed in Hong Kong—Yardley Brothers Hong Kong Bastard Imperial IPA, Gwei-lo American IPA—were beautifully hopped with a tropical and citrus flavour. The Wilderness IPA and Bodinton’s were from the UK, while Tsingtao is probably the most well known Chinese lager. The Tsingtao had to be consumed immediately on Ian’s return to The Salisbury, as the 600 ml bottle was too tall to fit in the small bar fridge. Tsingtao is one of Ian’s favourite lagers, and it made him feel a little better.

A sample of 5 beers

While at The Salisbury, we had breakfast with Philomena twice in the dining room on level 4.

It was rewarding on this trip to Hong Kong to catch up with Philomena’s son, Jon, and his wife, Flora, and their beautiful daughter, Olivia. Jon was born in Hong Kong and migrated to Australia with his parents in 1990. He moved back to Hong Kong for work, met and married Flora, and Olivia was born five years ago. On Philomena’s first night in Hong Kong, we all shared a banquet at a Thai restaurant at Admiralty, near where Joh and Flora live.

Ian, Katie, Philomena, Cecil and Flora at the Thai restaurant

We also enjoyed the company of Jon, Flora and Olivia at the Golden Palace Seaview Banquet Hall on Level 26 at iSQUARE for yum cha, a Chiu Chow dinner in the Chiu Chow Garden in Star House (near the Star Ferry), and afternoon tea at The Peninsula, which is next to The Salisbury. The most interesting dish of the trip was Chiu Chow fried noodles—a pancake of yellow noodles eaten with a sprinkling of vinegar and sugar. Jon said that they could really only have this dish at special occasions when there were enough people to share it.

The Peninsula is a long-established hotel and is acclaimed for its afternoon tea (sometimes called high tea) served daily in The Lobby. This is a very British tradition! The Lobby in Peninsula is an elegant meeting place. You can listen to the beautiful live, string music by acclaimed musicians while having afternoon tea. This is a MUST DO activity for visitors to Hong Kong.

We were treated by Jon and Philomena to enjoy this unforgettable experience! The Peninsula does not take table bookings for afternoon tea—it is strictly run on a first-come, first served basis from 3:30 pm, and there is always a long queue of guests waiting for a table. Indeed, the queue put us off when we were in Hong Kong last year. However, this time we were with Philomena, who secured a table between lunch and afternoon tea for a quick snack! Philomena ordered a charcuterie plate, and Ian took the opportunity to have a Tsingtao or two. We simply took our time and continued into afternoon tea at the same table. Good to be with people in the know.

The Peninsula Hotel (image from Trip Advisor)

It was a perfect afternoon tea, with tea in a silver service, and scones, savouries and sweet delicacies presented in a triple decker stack, just as it should be. We lingered for several hours. We enjoyed the live music from a four piece band behind us on the next level up.

Flora and Olivia enjoying afternoon tea
Everyone at afternoon tea enjoying scones, savoury sandwiches, and sweets
Delicate sweets

Earlier in the year, Ian bought a new pair of ASICS runners, and he found them to be very comfortable and hard wearing. He hoped to pick up another pair in Vietnam where they are made, expecting to pay much less for them, but we did not get the chance to do any shopping in Saigon. He found an ASICS shop in Tsim Sha Tsui, but most running shoes in the shop were for skinny little feet. He eventually found a size 10 shoe with a wide fitting, but the only colour available was bright orange-red. He was really trying to keep a low profile in Hong Kong, but it was difficult…

Ian in red runners with Olivia

On our last day in Hong Kong on 22 April, the long-awaited sun finally shone which was a welcome relief to both Katie and Ian. Ian started the day with an early walk along the Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade, which has recently been developed around the foreshore.

Tsim Sha Tui Promenade before the sun came out–Victoria Peak is obscured by cloud

We decided to go up to Victoria Peak on Hong Kong island before catching our flight home at 7:30 pm. We checked our luggage in at Hong Kong MTR station at the Qantas counter in the morning. We had a small hiccup when the name for Katie’s booking did not match the name on her passport, but the guy at the counter said it would be OK, and issued our boarding passes. I wish we had checked them. Relieved of our luggage, we took a No. 15 bus to the Peak. The place was packed and looked like half the population of Hong Kong had decided to do the same as us!

By the time we arrived at the Peak, the sun was out, and we got some magnificent views, especially back down to Tsim Sha Tsui, where we had spent most of the past week. Ian took some nice scenic photos. We bumped into a couple of characters that had escaped from Madame Tussauds. Feeling peckish, we had lunch at Hungry Jacks. Back at Hong Kong Station, we caught an express train to the airport.

View to Tsim Sha Tui from Victoria Peak
Ian with Albert Einstein
Katie with Nicole Kidman

We had plenty of time when we arrived at the airport. This is just as well, because the mistake on Katie’s boarding pass, where her name was printed as Mrs Clarke Clarke, was caught at the first immigration check. Officers said that we could have the mistake rectified for only $250HK, but Ian maintained this was Qantas’ mistake, which should have been caught when Katie’s Frequent Flyer number was provided for the booking. Eventually they caved in, issued us with a new boarding pass for Katie in her correct name, and all was good thereafter. We bought some pasties to take home, and then waited a short while to board. On the plane, we were pleasantly surprised to find our seats behind a bulkhead, so we had extra legroom without having to pay for it.

We landed at Sydney at 6:30 am on Tuesday 23 April. We took another 6.5 hours using three trains and a taxi to get home. Top holiday, but it was great to be back home! Our dog, Dexter, almost ate us when we drove around to collect him from our friend, Norman. The third part of our grey nomad adventure is to travel around Australia with Dexter in our motorhome, Matilda. But first, we needed to unwind from a brilliant ukulele cruise where we met new friends Peter and Krystyna and John and Joy, and from a lovely time in Hong Kong catching up with family and immersing ourselves in Chinese gastronomy.

Fried Chiu Chow noodles (image from Trip Advisor, Pak Loh Chiu Chow Restaurant)