Barreling along the highway from Kuala Lumper (KL) to Johor Bahru(JB) in a bus, affords the opportunity to reflect on a very busy 5 weeks of visits in south-east Queensland. Palm oil plantations replace the Australian gum tree landscape. Oriental Magpie Robins catch the eye instead of Willy Wagtails and squirrels scamper up tree trunks while monkeys rustle the branches. Burney recalled writing in her notes “We’ve readied the boat for our departure: Seacocks closed, washed the ceiling in vinegar to prevent mould, removed foodstuff, turned the gas off and put rat sack in the cockpit. We’re off! returning to Australia for a whirlwind visit with new and old friends, family and a folk festival.”
It’s that moment.
When we first arrived at Coolangatta Airport on Nov 30th, we smelt Australia. One could bottle the essence of Australia and market it to expats. Although hungover from a sleepless night flight, we marveled at the sound of Magpies warbling and smiled when a Kookaburra cackled. It made Burney pause for thought reacquainting with bird songs not heard for 18 months as we wandered around parklands and later forest tracks. Then we indulged our taste buds feasting on Australian cheeses, tender steaks and oodles of wine. Let’s not mention piles of pavlova!! All our sense were brought to the party.
But the most memorable was seeing so many of our friends and family. Our “dance card” was fully booked with only a couple of rest days to recharge our “batteries”. Thanks to Hans’ brother, Martin and daughter, Monika, we were able to criss-cross the countryside in their borrowed cars. Gratefully, we lodged with whoever would have us and some even allowed us to house-sit when they weren’t there, themselves. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Hans’ thirst for musical indulgences with friends at home and dropping back into sessions at the Celtic Corner in Manly and The Mill in Fortitude Valley was enthusiastically given full rein. Burney birded where ever she could but also with the Wader Group at Manly and with Marie Tarrant around Samsonvale.
Needless to say, the whole month of December was a festive event. Mementos from our trips were shared and we abandoned ourselves in festive dining, whenever we arrived at a home. But ultimately, we celebrated the official event of Christmas with new friends, Doug and Michelle Tritton at Dingo Creek. In-laws or outlaws the Tritton/Dauncey families are to be united! We were overcome with sentimental happiness when Monika’s beau, Wil, proposed while we were in Australia. Then, Wil’s family opened their doors to the Dauncey clan both in Brisbane and at Dingo Creek Vineyard. (That included the cellar door at the vineyard) It was a fabulous couple of days. Hans provided the Christmas carols music but also Monika and Wil played ukes. The wines flowed, the food kept coming and the dogs played. A dip in the dam cooled us all on Xmas Day complete with floating drink carriers, thanks to Santa. As a further symbol of unity, Doug, Michelle and Wil organised a tree-planting event. We now have a part of Dingo Creek to nurture and enjoy into the future.
Come Boxing Day, the mighty Jazz, very heavily laden took us to the Woodford Folk Festival. (All camping gear provided by our dear friend Elaine. )
Yet again, we worked as volunteers to earn our entrance and camping fees. As Waste Warriors, we street-picked the amphitheater every morning and tried to educate others on correct rubbish disposal. Proudly, this festival only allows compostable beverage and food wares. Hence the amount of landfill plastics leaving the site was greatly reduced by these better practices. Free to experience many of the acts performing when not working, we yellow highlighted our program. Memorable pieces included John Butler without his band and his wife, Mama Kin who made a very sassy appearance with JB. Katie Miller- Heidke was her usual dynamic self.
Linsey Pollak, one of Australia’s most brilliant (and under-rated) composer/musicians was wildly innovative. In his recent productions “ Dangerous Song – blue” Linsey played animal calls using a midi-wind controller where breath, lip pressure and fingering control real animal call samples while Lizzie O’Keefe joined him weaving her voice in and out of the musical landscape of animal sounds. Stunning underwater cinematography by David Hannan (Ocean Ark Alliance) was projected onto a screen which appeared to be a large aquarium. Occasionally floor lights illuminated the two performers from within these extraordinary underwater scenes. Brilliant.
While Hans joined others at a joyful uke workshop every morning after work, Burney went for belly laughs with Martin Pearson and John Thompson and a variety morning show that might have been called “Snack, Cackle and Poop”?
Visiting the Folk Festival was another social occasion with many of our friends either visiting or camped for the entire week, like us. An exhausting but fabulous week!!
Before departing, we had yet another visit with Hans’ family for a couple of days.
So that was it, for our 5 week “sojourn of sofa surfing in South-east Qld”. Feeling relaxed and ready for a few days playing tourist in Kuala Lumper, we were extremely taken-aback by the check-in staff at Coolangatta Airport. Considering we have made flights in and out of Malaysia to Cambodia and Nepal with no comments about our travel plans, we questioned the reasoning behind Australian ground staff disturbed by our lack of an obvious ongoing flight. Well, wrong thing to do!! Before we knew we had an avalanche of grief pouring over us. This was not Air Asia staff but the contracted AeroCare (Ground Handling Company) employees. Our counter person, supposedly called Customer Service, then enlisted her supervisor who was more experienced (3 yrs) who had a serious case of the haughtiness that small world-experienced people could display when given a little power. In our minds she became Ms Hoity Toity. The debacle lasted a very long time and it was only when we both decided to bite our tongues and grind our molars down in frustration that we let her have the last word…. Ms Hoity Toity was always going to have the last word. The fact that we had a valid visa for Indonesia in our passports didn’t fit with their experience. Yet when we explained we had a yacht waiting for us, they glanced over that with – “We can’t know your life story”…. So off we go glad to be through that obstacle.
But wait…not yet.
Border Force needed a chat after we went through Immigration. Ms Hoity Toity had reported us.
“I hear you’ve been making some trouble at the front desk” was his opening. Fortunately, he did understand. (And it helped that Hans’ surname was recognized. His brother works for Border Force) Pheew. You must realize that the whole experience left a very sour taste in our mouths. So much for being an Australian visiting “Home”.
Sailors be warned: carry your boat and marina papers when flying to Australia. The laws changed in 2015 we were told. However “Ground Handling after reading various sections of the Department of Home Affairs website, Burney is still trying to find the actual wording.
Photo Gallery of happier experiences.